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Take Action: Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women.  The good news is there are many things you can do to reduce your risk for heart disease.

Here are five key strategies you can adopt today for a healthier heart: 

  1. Don’t smoke.  If you do, quit. 

    People who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers.  When you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease will drop dramatically in just one year.

  2. Get moving. 

    Make a commitment to be more physically active.  Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, most days of the week. Regular exercise improves your circulation, strengthens your heart, reduces your stress, helps maintain a healthy weight, and reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes—all important for a healthier heart.

  3. Eat a heart-healthy diet. 

    Eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.  Drink alcohol in moderation if you drink—no more than two drinks per day for men.

  4. Maintain a healthy weight. 

    It is important for a long and vigorous life.  Excess weight can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes that increase your chances for heart disease.<

  5. Know your numbers.  Get regular health screenings.

    Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglyerides) and blood glucose.  Work with your doctor to improve any numbers that are not normal.  High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are major risk factors for developing heart disease.  In their earlier stages, these health conditions cause no symptoms. 

For a detailed action plan for a healthier heart, see the new guidebook from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.  The guidebook is available free online at or for a fee for mailing by calling the NHLBI Health Information Center at 301.592.8573.