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Prevention: What You Can Do

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Live a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.

    For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, see CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.

  • 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). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat.

    If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC's Assessing Your Weight Web site.

  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.

    For more information, see CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Web site.

  • Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.

    For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC's Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site.

  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure. For more information, visit CDC's Alcohol and Public Health Web site.

Key Definitions

  • Heart disease refers to several different types of heart conditions.
  • Coronary artery disease is a type of heart disease that occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
  • Plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits, which can accumulate in your arteries.
  • Atherosclerosis is a condition that occurs when too much plaque builds up in your arteries, causing them to narrow.
  • Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the body. High levels in the blood can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  • Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's use of insulin. Insulin tells the body to remove sugar from the blood. People with diabetes either don't make enough insulin, can't use their own insulin as well as they should, or both.
  • Obesity is excess body fat.

Prevent or Treat Your Medical Conditions

If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, there are steps you can take to lower your risk for heart disease.

  • Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test.
  • A patient getting their blood pressure checked.Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, closely monitor your blood sugar levels. Talk with your health care provider about treatment options.
  • Take your medicine. If you're taking medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • Talk with your health care provider. You and your doctor can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease. Discuss your treatment plan regularly and bring a list of questions to your appointments.

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