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Tips for Preventing or Slowing Heart Disease

Heart disease is the top cause of death for both men and women, and it can keep you from doing the things you love. Everyone is at risk, and your risk goes up as you age or if you have a family history of heart disease.

But you can take steps to protect your heart and your life, including:

  • Learn to eat right and love it. You need the right mix of fruit, vegetables, lean meat or other protein, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil or those found in nuts, seeds and fatty fish. If you have high blood pressure, limit salt and avoid high-sodium processed foods. Try new recipes and foods to find healthy options that you enjoy. Your doctor or a dietitian can help.
  • Stay active. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Walking, dancing, working in the garden or playing with children can count. Talk to your doctor about what activities are best for you.
  • Don’t use tobacco. Smoking, secondhand smoke, smokeless tobacco – any method of taking nicotine into your body can affect your heart health. If you use tobacco, find a way to stop. Your doctor can help you find a method that works for you.
  • Watch your weight. Being overweight puts an added strain on your heart and can lead to diabetes and other conditions that can damage your heart. Talk to your doctor about what is a healthy weight for you and how you can reach and maintain it.
  • Manage your stress. No one can completely avoid stress, but you can find ways to reduce it and manage it in healthy ways. While the link between stress and heart disease isn’t clear, stress can take a toll on your overall health and can lead to unhealthy coping strategies, such as drinking, smoking or overeating. Instead, you can manage stress by getting plenty of rest, avoiding negative self-talk, taking breaks at work and at home, and learning simple relaxation methods. Some people benefit from meditation, counseling or even medication. Talk to your doctor if stress might be affecting your health and quality of life.

Links to Recommended Resources

CardioSmart: American College of Cardiology – Information related to heart disease, risk factors, diet and exercise specifically written for patients

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – Educational tutorials, recipes and health assessment tools

MedlinePlus – Information about heart and vascular conditions, diseases and services

Up to Date Inc. – Evidence-based topic reviews written and edited by physicians providing the most current treatment recommendations. Subscription required.

Cardio Source: American College of Cardiology – Cardiosource is the American College of Cardiology’s online portal for cardiovascular Continuing Medical Education (CME) and news on the latest clinical findings.