Preventing Chronic Diseases: What You Can Do Now

Key points

  • Most chronic diseases are caused by a short list of risk factors: tobacco use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.
  • By avoiding these risks and getting good preventive care, you can improve your chance of staying well, feeling good, and living longer.
Mother and daughter choosing vegetables at a farmer's market

Prevention steps and strategies

Quit Smoking

Stopping smoking (or never starting) lowers the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease, as well as premature death—even for longtime smokers. Take the first step and call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for FREE support.

Quit Smoking

Tips From Former Smokers

Eat Healthy

Eating healthy helps prevent, delay, and manage heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. A balanced, healthy dietary pattern includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products and limits added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

How to Have Healthier Meals and Snacks

Get Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can help you prevent, delay, or manage chronic diseases. Aim for moderate intensity physical activity (like brisk walking or gardening) for at least 150 minutes a week, with muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week.

Physical Activity and Health

Adding Physical Activity to Your Life

Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight

Limit Alcohol

Over time, excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, various cancers, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. By not drinking too much, you can reduce these health risks.

Alcohol Use and Your Health

Check your alcohol use and make a customized plan for drinking less.

Get Screened

To prevent chronic diseases or catch them early, visit your doctor and dentist regularly for preventive services.

Cancer Screening Tests

Prediabetes and Diabetes Testing

Take Care of Your Teeth

Oral diseases—which range from cavities and gum disease to oral cancer—cause pain and disability for millions of Americans. To help prevent these problems, drink fluoridated water, brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss daily. Visit your dentist at least once a year, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.

More Oral Health Tips

Get Enough Sleep

Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and poor management of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep daily.

Basics About Sleep

Know Your Family History

If you have a family history of a chronic disease, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis, you may be more likely to develop that disease yourself. Share your family health history with your doctor, who can help you take steps to prevent these conditions or catch them early.

Know and Act on Your Family Health History