If you’ve got a heart, heart disease could be your problem. Heart disease affects women just as much as it does men. But everyone can take steps to reduce their chance of developing the disease.
How? By preventing or controlling behaviors and conditions known to increase its risk. They’re called “risk factors,” and there are two types—those you can change and those you can’t. Luckily, most of them can be changed. These are smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes. Those you can’t alter are your age (45 or older for men; 55 or older for women) and having a family history of early heart disease (a father or brother diagnosed before age 55, or a mother or sister diagnosed before age 65).
Start now to improve your heart-health profile. For instance, following a heart healthy eating plan helps prevent or control high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight, and diabetes. Here are some other steps you can take to help protect your heart health:
- Stop smoking. If you can’t quit the first time, keep trying.
- Lower high blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly (once every 2 years if it is normal, more often if it is not). Also, maintain a healthy weight and limit your intake of alcoholic beverages—to one drink a day for women and two for men.
- Reduce high blood cholesterol. Maintain a healthy weight and get your cholesterol level checked once every 5 years (more often, if needed). The test measures the level of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.
- Aim fo a healthy weight. To lose weight and keep it off, adopt a lifestyle that combines sensible eating with regular physical activity.
- Be physically active. Do at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most and preferably all days of the week.
- Prevent or manage diabetes. The steps that lower your risk of heart disease also reduce your chance of developing diabetes. If you already have diabetes, be sure to manage it.