Keep Your Heart Healthy

Take steps today to lower your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

To help prevent heart disease, you can:

  • Eat healthy.
  • Get active.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol (“koh-LEHS-tuh-rahl”) and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Manage stress.

Am I at risk for heart disease?

You are at higher risk for heart disease if you:

  • Have high cholesterol or high blood pressure 
  • Smoke
  • Are overweight or obese 
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Don’t eat a healthy diet 

Your age and family history also affect your risk for heart disease. Your risk is higher if: 

  • You are a woman over age 55
  • You are a man over age 45
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65

But the good news is there’s a lot you can do to prevent heart disease.

Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure can cause heart disease and heart attack. If your cholesterol or blood pressure numbers are high, you can take steps to lower them.

Get your cholesterol checked.

If you are age 40 to 75, get your cholesterol checked regularly.

The general recommendation is to get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Some people may need to get their cholesterol checked more or less often. Talk with your doctor about what’s best for you.

Get your blood pressure checked.

Starting at age 18, get your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure has no signs or symptoms.

Use the myhealthfinder tool to get more screening recommendations based on your age and sex.

Know your family’s health history.

Your family history affects your risk for heart disease. Use this family health history tool to keep track of your family’s health. Share the information with your doctor or nurse.

If you are worried about a family member’s risk for heart disease, use these tips to start a conversation about heart health.

Ask your doctor about taking aspirin every day.

If you are age 50 to 59, taking aspirin every day can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke – but it’s not recommended for everyone.  Talk with your doctor to find out if taking aspirin is the right choice for you.

Eat healthy.

Eating healthy can help lower your risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy diet includes foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium (salt).

Heart-healthy items include high-fiber foods (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) and certain fats (like the fats in olive oil and fish). Use this shopping list to find heart-healthy foods.

Drink alcohol only in moderation.

If you choose to drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. This means limiting your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for woman and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of heart disease.

Get active.

Getting active can help prevent heart disease. Adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. This includes walking fast, dancing, and biking.

If you are just getting started, try walking for 10 minutes a day, a few days each week. Then add more activity over time.

Stay at a healthy weight.

People who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, losing just 10 pounds can lower your risk of heart disease. Find out how to control your weight.

If you don’t know if you are at a healthy weight, use this BMI calculator to figure out your BMI (body mass index).

Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.

Quitting smoking helps lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and to set up your plan for quitting.

Avoiding secondhand smoke is important, too – so keep your home smoke-free. If you have guests who smoke, ask them to smoke outside. If someone in your home smokes, use these tips to start a conversation about quitting

Manage stress.

Managing stress can help prevent serious health problems like heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure. Deep breathing and meditation are good ways to relax and manage stress.