Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. While it is most common in people age 60 and older, heart disease can begin to develop at a much younger age. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease affects more than 35 percent of people age 39 and older, and more than 10 percent of those age 20–39.
No matter what your age, you can take steps to keep your heart as healthy as possible. By understanding your risk factors, making smart lifestyle choices and partnering with your Scripps physician, you can help prevent heart disease.
The most common heart disease risk factors for men and women are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking tobacco
- Overweight or obese
- Type 2 diabetes
- Family history of heart disease, heart attack or stroke
If you have any of these risk factors, talk with your physician about ways to reduce your risk.
Make healthy lifestyle choices and follow these lifestyle guidelines to help prevent heart disease.
- Maintain a heart-healthy diet that is low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol.
- Get regular exercise by aiming for a total of 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. In addition to cardiovascular exercise, include strength training workouts to build muscle.
- Maintain a healthy weight by losing excess body fat, especially around the waist.
- Quit smoking immediately and avoid secondhand smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Too much can raise blood pressure; ask your doctor what is safe for you.
- Learn to manage stress, which can help with managing blood pressure.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, work with your physician to monitor your heart health and identify potential concerns.
- Have your blood pressure and cholesterol tested as recommended by your doctor. If either is higher than normal, work with your physician to find options to help lower them.
- Manage medical conditions that increase your risk, such as diabetes. This includes taking medications as prescribed by your physician or cardiologist.