How to Prevent Heart Disease

Three Methods:Eating Heart-Healthy FoodsMaking Other Lifestyle ChangesGetting Help from Your Doctor

Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers a variety of cardiovascular conditions, including blood vessel diseases, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, congenital heart defects and infections of the heart.[1] Although heart disease is a serious condition, there are some simple steps that you can take to lower your risk of developing heart disease, such as eating a heart healthy diet, staying active, managing stress, and quitting smoking. Some factors are beyond control, but you can help to protect yourself from heart disease by taking charge of the factors that you can control.

Method 1
Eating Heart-Healthy Foods

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    Be aware of emerging science. It has been a long-held belief that certain things, such as saturated fats, should be banned from your diet; however, new studies are showing that saturated fats may not increase cardiovascular mortality.[2][3][4] In fact, a low-fat diet may actually increase your risk of heart disease, because the fat is replaced by carbohydrates.[5] If you are concerned about eating for a healthy heart, stay abreast of the most current dietary information.
    • It still stands that trans-fat is very bad for your heart heath and is linked to a host of negative side effects. Decrease the amount of foods you eat that contain trans fats, such as fried foods, packaged foods, margarine, and processed baked goods.[6]
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    Boost your intake of foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a healthy type of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids offer protection from heart disease and can be found in foods such as salmon, mackerel, flaxseed, and walnuts and in certain vitamin and mineral supplements.[7]
    • Try to incorporate wild-caught fish into your diet twice per week (farmed fish are often not as high in Omega 3's).[8]
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    Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that you consume each day. Set a goal of 10 servings of fresh or frozen produce per day. The healthy plant substances found in fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease.[9]
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    Opt for whole grains and cut back on carbs. They are an excellent source of fiber and contain several healthy nutrients that can help regulate blood pressure and improve overall heart health. Though whole grains are much better than refined grains, a diet that is low in carbohydrates been shown to improve cardiovascular health.[10][11]
    • Replace refined grain products with whole grain products.
    • Choose whole-wheat flours, 100% whole grain bread, high-fiber cereal, whole grain pasta, steel-cut oats, brown rice and barley.
    • Stay away from white or refined flours, white bread, frozen waffles, biscuits, corn bread, egg noodles, granola bars, high-fat snacks, quick breads, cakes, pies, donuts and buttered popcorn.
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    Keep your portion sizes under control. Although what you eat is important for heart health, how much you eat is also a factor in improving overall heart health. Refrain from overeating, which can lead to excess fat, cholesterol and calorie intake.[12] Keeping portion sizes under control is essential to healthy eating. Use measuring cups and spoons and weight scales to measure your portion sizes until you become familiar enough to recognize them by sight only. Some ways to remember appropriate portion sizes include:
    • 3 oz. of lean meat is about the size of a smart phone.
    • ¼ cup of nuts is about the size of a golf ball.
    • 1 cup of vegetables is about the size of a baseball.

Method 2
Making Other Lifestyle Changes

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    Lose weight if you are overweight. Carrying extra weight puts a strain on your heart which can cause heart disease later in life. You are at an even higher risk if you carry excess weight around your waist. Strive to maintain a healthy weight to avoid complications of being overweight now or later in life.[13]
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    Exercise for 30 minutes five days per week. Getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days per week will help you to protect yourself from heart disease. Developing good exercise habits from a young age and maintaining those habits for your lifetime will improve your chances of staying in shape and reaping the benefits of exercise for your heart.[14]
    • Aim for five 30 minute moderate exercise sessions five days per week, but keep in mind that you can divide these sessions into smaller ones throughout the day. For example, you could exercise for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night, or do three 10 minute sessions spread throughout the day.
    • As an alternative, you can do 25 minutes of vigorous activity three days per week and some kind of moderate to high intensity muscle training twice per week.
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    Manage stress. Stress causes damage to your arteries which may lead to heart disease, so it is important to develop techniques for managing stress.[15] Try yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or another relaxation technique to help control your stress levels.
    • One study showed that meditation effectively lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 4.7 and 3.2 mm Hg.[16]
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    Get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can lead to all kinds of health problems including obesity, high blood pressure, and even heart attack. Take measures to improve your sleep quality and ensure that you get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
    • Limit caffeine consumption and cut out all caffeine after 2pm.
    • Try to go to sleep at the same time every night to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
    • Exercise regularly to boost serotonin levels.
    • Refrain from watching television or using a laptop while in bed.

Method 3
Getting Help from Your Doctor

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    Request regular health screening tests from your doctor. Keeping tabs on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar can help to keep you in good health. Blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar are major factors in the development of heart disease, but you can keep them under control by having them checked often.[17]
    • Blood Pressure. Have your blood pressure checked every two years. You may need to get checked more often if your numbers are high or if you are at risk of high blood pressure.
    • Cholesterol. The information about cholesterol has become more detailed and is based more on smaller lipoproteins than on overall cholesterol. Therefore, ask your doctor to check your CRP, or C-reactive protein, levels. Elevated CRP levels are linked to inflammation of the arteries, which is linked to heart disease.[18] A simple blood test can check your CRP levels.
    • Diabetes. The recommended age to begin screening for diabetes is 45, but you should ask your doctor when you should started having screenings based on your medical history and risk factors. Even prediabetes is now being treated by doctors as a risk factor for the development of diabetes and for cardiovascular disease as well.[19]
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    Ask about metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome — which refers to a cluster of risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes — is becoming more common as more people live a sedentary lifestyle.[20] Risk factors include excess fat around the waistline, a high triglyceride level, high blood sugar, or high blood pressure.[21]
    • Combat metabolic syndrome by tackling any risk factors you may have. Exercise and change your diet to lose weight if you have abdominal obesity. Limit alcohol, manage stress, and follow other guidelines for a heart-healthy lifestyle.[22]
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    Talk to your doctor about the role of inflammation. Recent studies are showing that inflammation is a hugely overlooked risk factor for atherosclerosis. The best way to currently test for inflammation is to have your doctor check your CRP levels.[23]
    • Inflammation may be caused by loss of muscle mass, cancer, inflammatory diseases (like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus), metabolic syndrome, and injuries to the artery wall, often caused by oxidized LDL cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar.[24][25]
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    Get help to quit smoking. Smoking is a major contributor to the development of heart disease and it is the leading cause of preventable deaths. If you smoke, do everything that you can to quit. Ask your doctor about smoking cessation programs and medications that may help make quitting easier.[26]
    • One study showed that smoking for two years increases one’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36%.[27]
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    Talk to your doctor for advice about moderating alcohol use. Drinking alcohol in moderation may offer some benefits to your heart, but drinking too much can harm your heart health. You should have no more than one drink a day if you are a woman and no more than two drinks if you are a man. (Men over the age of 65 should only have one drink per day as well.) Any more alcohol than this can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
    • If you often struggle to stop at just one drink, discuss your options with your doctor.
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    Make your doctor aware of your other concerns. If you have a history of heart disease in your family, then you should make sure that your doctor knows about it. Your doctor may recommend extra precautions to help prevent you from developing heart disease and to help you maintain good cardiovascular health.


  • Many forms of heart disease can be hereditary; one could be perfectly healthy and still develop a heart condition if one's (grand)parents had it. Research your family history to see if you're likely to develop a particular heart condition.


  • Heart disease is a serious medical condition that if left untreated can be fatal. Contact your doctor immediately if you think you may be at risk for heart disease or other conditions that increase your risk of developing heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or diabetes.

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