If you are among the 83 percent of Americans who believe that heart attacks and stroke can be prevented, but aren’t motivated to do anything about it, take action now to strengthen your heart and live a longer, healthier life. For starters, lower your blood pressure if it’s high. That can decrease your risk of stroke and heart disease by about 50 percent. There are all sorts of lifestyle changes you can make, as well as medicines you can take, to keep your heart pumping strong.
Action Steps for Heart Disease Prevention
- Stop smoking.
- Lose weight.
- Increase your physical activity. If you are healthy enough to be more active, target 40 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts and fish and low in sweets and red meat works. Think about the Mediterranean diet. That’s a great place to start. Avoid trans fats especially and keep saturated fat consumption at the lowest possible levels. Sodium restriction is a good idea, particularly if high blood pressure is a consideration.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Reduce stress.
- Know your numbers (e.g., your most recent cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and blood pressure).
Other Health Tips
- When you visit your doctor, always have a list of your medical problems in chronological order, including any surgeries and allergies.
- Make sure you have a thorough family history, especially about cardiovascular disease.
- Go to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 to learn about your cardiovascular health in a patient-friendly format. You can go through the Life’s Simple 7 assessments and bring those numbers, as well as your questions, to your doctor.
- Sign up on the American Heart Association’s Heart360 website, where you can enter and track personal cardiovascular health information (such as blood pressure, weight, glucose and cholesterol measurements, and medications).
If you are at higher risk:
- The American Heart Association recommends statin drugs. These are safe drugs that are proven to be effective.
You are at risk if:
- You are already known to have heart disease.
- You have a very high LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol.
- You have diabetes and are between the ages of 40-75.
Did You Know?
Stats on Prevalence of Heart Attacks
- One of every three deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease and stroke.
- Each year, an estimated 785,000 Americans will have their first heart attack.
- Each year, an estimated 470,000 Americans will have another heart attack.
Stats on Deaths from Heart Disease
- Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States.
- Every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event.
- Every 39 seconds someone dies from heart disease and stroke.
Stats on Lack of Awareness
- 60 percent of adults don’t know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
- 99 percent of Americans need to improve their heart health.
- 72 percent don’t consider themselves at risk for heart disease.
- 58 percent put no effort into improving their heart health.