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Preventing Cardiovascular Diseases

Picture of an elderly man with his golf clubs

Primary risk factors for chronic disease

At the top of the CDC's list of primary risk factors for all chronic diseases are: smoking, poor nutrition, and sedentary lifestyle.

Living a healthier lifestyle can help prevent heart disease. This includes:

  • Eliminating all tobacco use

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet

  • Following an appropriate exercise program

  • Managing your weight

  • Eliminating as much stress as possible

Eliminate all tobacco use

All tobacco products raise the risk for chronic illness, not just cigarettes. There is no therapeutic use for nicotine. As soon as you stop smoking, your body begins to heal itself from the devastating effects of tobacco.

Eat a heart-healthy diet

One aspect of managing your heart attack risk factors includes eating a heart-healthy diet, including the right amounts of:

  • Calories

  • Cholesterol

  • Fat

  • Fiber

  • Sodium

To help, the federal government has established a food plate guide and food labeling laws. The food plate can help you eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat.

To find more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 and to find the right recommendations for your age, sex, and physical activity level, visit the Online Resources page for the links to the ChooseMyPlate.gov and 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines sites. Please note that the My Plate plan is designed for people over the age of 2 who do not have chronic health conditions.

Maintaining a heart-healthy, balanced diet will help:

  • Manage stroke and heart attack risk factors

  • Prevent or manage other chronic diseases

  • Help lose weight and boost energy

  • Promote overall good health

Follow an appropriate exercise program

One vital step toward reducing your chances of having a heart attack is making the time to exercise. In today's busy world, people must schedule time to exercise. Choose an activity that you enjoy doing, then talk with your healthcare provider about an exercise plan that meets your individual needs.

An exercise program will help manage almost all stroke and heart attack risk factors. Try to include moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 40 minutes each day, for at least 3 to 4 days per week, above usual activity at work or home. Regular physical activity will help promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.

Always talk to your healthcare provider about your healthy diet and exercise needs.

 

Manage your weight

If you are overweight, your healthcare provider will work with you to lose weight and lower your body mass index (BMI) to a normal or near-normal level. Making diet changes and increasing physical activity can help. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight have their blood glucose checked at least every 3 years, as long as their results are normal. If you have an abnormal blood glucose, your healthcare provider may recommend behavioral counseling to help you eat better and get more exercise.

 

Eliminate as much stress as possible

Learn stress management techniques to help you deal with stress in your home and work life. Stress increases hormone levels and inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Gandelman, Glenn, MD, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 3/29/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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