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This Father’s Day, Give Your Heart a Checkup

Heart disease does not discriminate. It is the leading cause of death for men of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian American men, heart disease is second only to cancer among the leading causes of death.2

A man's risk for heart disease begins to rise greatly starting at 45 years of age. Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease—the most common kind of heart disease—have no previous symptoms.3 Even men who have no symptoms may be at risk.

The good news is that heart disease deaths have been falling steadily over the past few decades. With Father's Day around the corner, it is a great time for all men to consider what they can do to lower their own risk for heart disease, for themselves and for their loved ones. What better time to start than now?

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are—

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

A person's chances of surviving a heart attack increase greatly if the victim receives treatment quickly. Recognizing the signs of a heart attack will help you act fast and call 9–1–1 during a real emergency

Who's at risk for heart disease?

Anyone—male and female, young and old, of any race/ethnicity—can develop heart disease. Several medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put people at a higher risk, including—

  • Diabetes.
  • Overweight and obesity.
  • Unhealthy diet.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Alcohol overuse.

You can help prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing any medical conditions you may have.

Start reducing your risk today

There are many good reasons to lower your risk of heart disease. Following these steps will put you well on your way to leading a longer, healthier life and enjoying the benefits of heart health for years to come.

Eat a healthy diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially abundant during the summer. Be sure to eat plenty of them—adults should have at least 5 servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. When grilling, remember healthy meat alternatives, such as fish. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure. For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, visit CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Web site or

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC's Assessing Your Weight Web page.
  • Photo: A man ready to take a swimExercise regularly. The summer is a good time to get active with family and friends. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week. Walk, go for a hike or a bike ride, or head to the local pool for a swim. For more information, see CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Web site.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to check it on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a local pharmacy, or at a doctor's office. Find more information at CDC's High Blood Pressure Web site.
  • Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, visit CDC's Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site and
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day (and one per day for women). For more information, visit CDC's Alcohol and Public Health Web site.
  • Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test. You can find out more from CDC's Cholesterol Web site.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your health care team about treatment options. Visit CDC's Diabetes Public Health Resource for more information.
  • Take your medicine. If you're taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don't understand something. Your pharmacist can help if you have questions about taking your medication or about side effects.

More Information


  1. Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009. [PDF - 3.12MB] National Vital Statistics Reports. 2011;60(3).
  2. Heron M. Deaths: leading causes for 2009 [PDF - 2.56MB]. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2012;61(7).
  3. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation.2013;127:e6–245.