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Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization. The good news is that you can take action to assess and potentially reduce your risk through preventative screenings and healthy lifestyle changes. Check out the tips below to get started!

Assess Your Risk by Knowing Your Numbers

Your health care provider can assess your risk for cardiovascular disease through preventative screenings, including weight, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Don’t stop at just knowing your numbers, though. Talk with your health care provider about what they mean and steps that you can take to keep your numbers in a healthy range. Use the My Health Finder tool to get screening recommendations based on your age and sex.

Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease—including age and genetics—cannot be modified by changes in lifestyle, and sometimes lifestyle modifications may not be enough to significantly lower the risk. In these situations, talk with your health care providers to discuss other ways to reduce risk, and visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Know Your Risk for Heart Disease page to learn more.

Reduce Your Risk Through Lifestyle Changes

Physical Activity

Any amount of physical activity offers health benefits; activity levels equivalent to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can significantly reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, and even more physical activity can reduce risk further! For tips and motivation, check out the Department of Health and Human Services’ Move Your Way website.

Eating Patterns

Eating patterns low in sodium (salt) and saturated fats can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Calculate your MyPlate Plan to find out how much and which foods you need, based on your height, weight, age, and physical activity level.

Getting Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for blood pressure, weight maintenance, and other cardiovascular health factors. While sleep requirements vary from person to person and change over the course of your life, most adults need at least 7 hours a day. Learn more at Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

A healthy weight is different for everyone and maintaining a healthy weight can help protect against cardiovascular disease. Factors that influence weight maintenance include eating pattern, physical activity, sleep, and stress. Learn more about healthy weight.

Quit Smoking

It’s never too late to quit! Smoking, including breathing second-hand smoke, causes one of every four deaths from heart disease. Just 20 minutes after a person quits smoking, their body begins to heal. To help you quit:

Moderation in Alcohol Consumption

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation (2 drinks in a day or less for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women). Alcohol consumption is associated with factors that increase risk for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure. Refer to the Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol for more information.

Heart Attack: Know the Signs

Many people having a heart attack wait too long. There are many reasons for this delay in care, including being embarrassed it will be a false alarm, denial, cost, or fear. If you, a family member, or a colleague have any of the following symptoms, do not take the chance, call 911.

Common heart attack warning signs:  

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting
  • Jaw, neck or back pain
  • Discomfort or pain in arm or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath

For more information, please see the American Heart Association’s pamphlet for common heart attack warning signs. You can also learn more on their page for heart attacks.

Last Modified: May 24, 2024
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