Take steps to keep your heart healthy
You may already know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)* estimates that 600,000 Americans die from it each year. That’s a scary statistic — but the good news is you can take steps to reduce your risk.
What is heart disease?
The term heart disease actually describes a number of conditions that affect the heart. The most common type is coronary artery disease (CAD). This is a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries, restricting blood flow. Too much buildup can cause a heart attack or other conditions.
Minimize your risk
You can’t control all of your risk factors for heart disease, such as your age or family history. But there are factors you can control, such as living a healthy lifestyle and managing conditions that may be linked to heart disease. The CDC recommends these tips:
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit processed foods, sugar and salt (sodium). Choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol — and high in fiber.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying excess body weight increases your risk for heart disease. If you’re overweight or obese, work with your doctor to develop a healthy weight loss plan.
- Get enough physical activity. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, as well as lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels — all risk factors for heart disease.
- Don't smoke. If you do use tobacco products, make a plan to quit.
- If you drink, do so only in moderation. That’s no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink per day for women.
- Keep your cholesterol in check. Have your blood cholesterol checked at least once every five years. If your levels are high, your doctor may recommend medication and lifestyle changes.
- Control blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can be a silent, symptomless killer. Get your blood pressure checked regularly — at least once every couple of years. If yours is high, you may need to take medicine, limit sodium or make other changes.
- Manage diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, your doctor may recommend you monitor your blood sugar levels. Your treatment plan may also include medications and lifestyle changes.
- Take your medicine. Medications you take for other conditions are important for your heart health, too. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking them. Report any side effects. And don’t stop taking a medicine without talking with your health care provider first.
- Talk with your health care team. Make sure you understand your treatment plan and risks. This is especially important if you’ve already had a heart attack.
Take advantage of resources available to you
Many of our health plans include access to wellness programs that offer information and support to help you make healthy lifestyle choices and manage chronic conditions.
Read more about high blood pressure.
*The CDC is an independent organization that offers health information that members of PAI may find helpful.