Know How to Lower Your Risk

There are a lot of things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. Research shows you can lower your risk for heart disease tremendously — more than 80 percent — just by living a healthy lifestyle. The best time to start making changes is now.

  • Stop smoking. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking also increases your chances of having a stroke.
  • Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure not only increases your risk for heart disease, it’s also the most important risk factor for stroke. African-American women are more likely to develop high blood pressure, and at earlier ages, than white women. Because high blood pressure doesn’t usually cause symptoms, many people don’t pay attention to it or try to control it. You can control your blood pressure by making lifestyle changes and, if necessary, by taking medication.
  • Control your cholesterol level. The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your chances of developing heart disease. Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can help you control your cholesterol. Sometimes doctors prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication to get your cholesterol level under control. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Nearly 70 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese. The more overweight you are, the greater your risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you need to lose weight. And know that even losing a few pounds — just 5 to 10 percent of your current weight — will lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Get moving. Physical inactivity increases your risk of heart disease, even if you don’t have any other risk factors. Being inactive also makes you more likely to develop other risk factors for heart disease. 
  • Control or prevent diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and usually develops in adulthood, and the risk rises after age 45. This type of diabetes develops gradually and often shows no symptoms. If you have prediabetes, defined as higher than normal glucose levels, you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about ways to keep your diabetes under control and how you can prevent diabetes.