How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (2024)

Article at a glance

  • Heart disease is an umbrella term for the many conditions that affect either the heart structure or coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
  • The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, and the risk increases as weage.
  • Many cases of heart disease are preventable with specific lifestyle changes.

How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (1)

Since the 1950s, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States. This overarching category includes life-threatening conditions like heart attacks and heart failure.

While prevalent, heart disease can be prevented in many cases. Recent research suggests up to90% of heart disease is related to specific, controllable lifestyle factors. In this article, we share nine habits and lifestyle changes that help prevent heart disease.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is an umbrella term for many different conditions involving the heart. Typically heart disease falls into two categories: congenital heart defects (problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth) and coronary artery disease (the more common and preventable of thetwo).

Our arteries are responsible for transporting blood to the body. Over time, they can harden due to the buildup of cholesterol and other materials. If too little blood flows through the arteries, the heart can’t get enough oxygen to function properly.

This can lead to multiple conditions, including:

  • Heart attack: acondition where heart muscles stop functioning due to alack ofblood
  • Heart failure: acondition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands for oxygen
  • Angina: chest pain from the lack of bloodflow
  • Arrhythmia: arhythmic heartbeat problem
  • Atrial fibrillation: the most common type of arrhythmia that occurs when the heart’s upper and lower chambers don’t work together

It’s important to note that other types of heart disease can occur that affect either the heart muscles or blood valves, although they are much less common.

Symptoms of heart disease vary greatly, depending on the condition. Sometimes, someone doesn’t know they have heart disease until they experience aheart attack or other life-threatening complication.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

While the hardening of arteries happens naturally as we age, other risk factors can put someone at ahigher risk of coronary heart disease:

  • Age: the prevalence of heart disease increases withage
  • Genetics: certain genes and afamily history of heart disease have been linked to higher risk.
  • Lifestyle: habits like excessive drinking or smoking can increase someone’s risk while lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity and maintaining good sleep health decrease risk.
  • Related health conditions: these include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, inflammatory diseases, chronic kidney issues, sleep apenea, and metabolic syndrome.
  • Previous heart diseases: if someone already had aprevious heart condition or astroke, they are at ahigher risk of developing more conditions.

Some risk factors are controllable while others, like genetics and aging, are not. Fortunately, recent research suggests the factors an individual can control are the highest risk factors. In fact, up to90% of heart disease may be preventable with specific lifestyle changes.

9 Tips For Heart Disease Prevention

#1 Maintain aHealthy Weight

Increased body fat is amajor risk factor for heart disease. There are many reasons for this, including how being overweight or obese increases one’s chance of diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health conditions that clog arteries. Independent of other conditions, research suggests having ahigher body mass index (BMI), asedentary lifestyle, and extra weight around the waist are risk factors for heart disease.

Generally, the main route to losing weight is by making lifestyle changes to diet and exercise. However, for some, providers may recommend medical interventions such as dieting pills or liposuction.

Note:To calculate BMI, usethis tool from the CDC. If concerned about BMI or weight, consult with ahealthcare provider before starting aweight loss program.

Exercise Often

Physical movement is one of the most effective ways to maintain ahealthy weight, but this doesn’t mean marathon training is required. Small, manageable movements and exercise help prevent heart disease.One study suggests walking eleven minutes more each day reduces one’srisk.

Besides walking, other exercises that prevent heart disease include:

  • Tai chi
  • Stretching
  • Gardening
  • Strength training
  • Swimming or water aerobics

Note:For more information about the importance of physical activity and how to incorporate fitness into your everyday routine,visit this source.

How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (2)

#2 Adopt aHeart-Healthy Diet

Someone’s diet heavily influences their body weight and heart health. The right foods also reduce other heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood cholesterol. In general, red and processed meats, overly salty foods, and foods high in cholesterol do not promote heart health while healthy foodsdo.

More specifically, heart-healthy eating includes:

  • Leafy greens, carrots, and other vegetables
  • Trout, tuna, and salmon
  • Apples, bananas, oranges, and other fruits
  • Lean meats like chicken and turkey
  • Nuts andseeds
  • Whole grains like quinoa
  • Avocados
  • Healthy oils, such as olive oil or sunflower oil

To avoid cardiovascular disease, it’s also best to eat healthy fats, like avocado, instead of saturated fat or trans fat. Saturated and trans fats include bacon, french fries, and many other highly processed foods. Other eating habits include buying fresh fruit and produce, low-fat dairy products, and nutrient-rich foods. For those who want amore regimented plan, theMediterranean Diet is agood place tostart.

Note:For more information on heart-healthy eating,visit this source.

How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (3)

#3 Manage Stress

When we think of heart attack triggers, stress often comes to mind. While extreme stress or an anxiety-inducing event can lead to aheart attack, prolonged chronic stress also impacts heart health.

Stress can quicken someone’s heartbeat and raise blood pressure. Sometimes, people also turn to coping mechanisms that aren’t healthy for the heart, such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or alcohol consumption.

To manage stress and lower blood pressure in aheart-healthy way, try meditation, exercise,breathing techniques, or journaling.

#4 Maintain aGood Sleep Schedule

Sleeping too much or too little is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Generally, it’s recommended to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, as that range lowers one’s risk for avariety of conditions, including heart disease.

To improve sleep hygiene, trythese eight tips for better sleep.

How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (4)

#5 Stop Smoking

Smokers are at ahigher risk for heart disease than nonsmokers. A2022 study compared older adults who smoked and those who didn’t. The smoking group had ahigher risk of heart disease and failure than those who didn’t smoke.

However, quitting isn’t easy. Many smokers experience irritability, weight gain, and stress when quitting. To help, check outthese tips from the CDC or call 1–800-QUIT-NOW (1–800-784‑8669) for support. Not to mention, it’s important to consult with your provider when beginning your quitting journey so they can help you along theway.

#6 Limit Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause strokes and peripheral artery disease. It is also commonly linked to other heart conditions, though more research is needed to confirm causation.

Too much alcohol produces irregular heartbeats and increases triglycerides, fat in the blood that can clog arteries.

Limit alcohol consumption as much as possible and follow the U.S. dietary guidelines for alcohol (one drink per day for women and two per day for men). One drink is defined as:

  • 12ounces ofbeer
  • 5ounces ofwine
  • 1.5ounces of spirits

For more on healthy drinking habits, check out theU.S. Dietary Guidelines for 2020–2025.

How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (5)

#7 Pay Attention to Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

High blood pressure and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol can clog the arteries while high blood pressure causes the blood to flow too quickly to and from yourheart.

While these two cause separate reactions in the body, both can be managed with similar steps:

  • Eat aheart-healthy diet
  • Lower stress
  • Exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep eachnight

A medical provider shouldcheck blood pressure at least once every two years and cholesterol once every four to six years. Typically,these screenings are done alongside others in aphysical exam. If levels are high, adoctor will provide medications and atreatment plan.

#8 Manage Diabetes

Type 2diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, or an inability to move glucose into cells. This causes aglucose build-up in the bloodstream, creating sugar spikes and other health problems.

The glucose buildup and sugar spikes can clog and damage the heart and blood vessels, which often causes heart disease. 30% of those with type 2diabetes develop aheart condition in their lifetime, according to theAmerican Heart Foundation.

To manage diabetes, test blood sugar often, live an active lifestyle, andeat ahealthy diet for type 2diabetes. Those with diabetes should also check in with their doctor regularly and follow any recommendations theymake.

#9 Take Medications as Prescribed

To prevent heart disease, take medications as prescribed. Prescriptions for certain conditions, including diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol, lower one’s risk for heart disease when taken properly and consistently.

Note:If struggling to take medication consistently, explore theseseven ways to stick to amedication schedule.

How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (6)


How can I strengthen my heart?

Lifestyle and heart health are closely linked. To live a heart-healthy life, move your body daily, add more lean meat, vegetables, and fruits to your diet, and manage stress. Controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes has also been closely linked to a stronger heart.

Can heart disease be cured?

As of now, there is no cure for heart disease. However, by living a heart-healthy lifestyle, those with heart disease can manage symptoms and reduce their risk for a heart attack. These lifestyle changes include maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, not smoking, and managing stress.

What foods prevent heart disease?

Leafy greens, carrots, fruits, lean meats, and certain types of fish have all been linked to better heart health. While it’s important to eat a diet with plenty of these food groups, this habit should be combined with others that prevent heart disease, such as managing stress, physical movement, and managing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

At what age does heart disease start?

Heart disease can impact anyone at any age, but typically, those over 65 are more likely to experience it. Aging weakens arteries and causes other changes in the heart that increase the risk of conditions like heart attack or heart failure.


How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk (2024)


How to Prevent Heart Disease: 9 Lifestyle Changes That Lower Risk? ›

Exercising regularly reduces your risk of having a heart attack. The heart is a muscle and, like any other muscle, benefits from exercise. A strong heart can pump more blood around your body with less effort. Any aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and dancing, makes your heart work harder and keeps it healthy.

How might heart disease be prevented? ›

Exercising regularly reduces your risk of having a heart attack. The heart is a muscle and, like any other muscle, benefits from exercise. A strong heart can pump more blood around your body with less effort. Any aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and dancing, makes your heart work harder and keeps it healthy.

How can I change my lifestyle for heart disease? ›

Choose good nutrition

Choose a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Include low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils and nuts. And limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, red and processed meats, added sugars, sugar-sweetened beverages and sodium.

How to maintain a healthy heart and prevent heart disease? ›

Strategies to prevent heart disease
  1. Don't smoke or use tobacco. ...
  2. Get moving: Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of activity daily. ...
  3. Eat a heart-healthy diet. ...
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. ...
  5. Get quality sleep. ...
  6. Manage stress. ...
  7. Get regular health screening tests. ...
  8. Take steps to prevent infections.
Aug 17, 2023

What is the healthiest thing you can do for your heart? ›

Getting regular physical activity can help prevent heart disease. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This includes anything that gets your heart beating faster — like walking, dancing, and biking. If you're just getting started, take it slow!

What are 10 ways to keep your heart healthy? ›

Best 10 ways to keep your heart healthy
  • STOP SMOKING. We are all aware of the harm smoking causes to our entire body, especially to our lungs and heart. ...
  • GET ACTIVE. ...
Sep 29, 2022

What is the only diet that can reverse heart disease? ›

Groundbreaking research shows that a plant-based diet doesn't just prevent heart disease but that it can manage and sometimes even reverse it.

How do I make my heart healthy again? ›

“A good diet, exercise and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol all help promote a strong heart and prevent heart disease. For people who already have a weak heart, low sodium intake, proper exercise and compliance with medications can all prevent more problems.

How to slow heart failure? ›

Healthy lifestyle changes
  1. Lower your sodium (salt) intake. Salt may make fluid buildup worse. ...
  2. Aim for a healthy weight since extra weight can make your heart work harder.
  3. Get regular physical activity. ...
  4. Quit smoking. ...
  5. Avoid or limit alcohol. ...
  6. Manage contributing risk factors. ...
  7. Manage stress. ...
  8. Get good-quality sleep.
Mar 24, 2022

Are bananas good for heart failure? ›

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one medium banana provides 375 milligrams. That's about 11% of the recommended daily potassium for a man and 16% for a woman. "Potassium is a mineral that is vital for heart health, especially in terms of blood pressure management," Spees said.

What is the #1 worst habit for your heart? ›

Smoking is one of the most harmful things people can do to themselves,” Dr. Maniar says. Blood flow drops, slashing oxygen that fuels the heart, which compensates by spiking blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and can lead to hardened and narrowed arteries and blood clots causing cardiovascular disease.

Which drink is best for the heart? ›

Water is the drink of choice for heart health. If you're thirsty, drink water.

What drink cleans the heart? ›

6 Drinks to Boost Heart Health
  • Pomegranate juice. According to experts, pomegranates are uniquely healthy fruits for your heart. ...
  • Coffee. Studies have shown that people who drink 3-5 cups of coffee per day have a significantly lower risk of heart disease, stroke and heart failure. ...
  • Tea. ...
  • Tomato juice. ...
  • Green juice. ...
  • Smoothies.

What are 6 foods that prevent heart disease? ›

The PURE Healthy Diet Score recommends an average of:
  • Fruit: 2–3 servings daily.
  • Vegetables: 2–3 servings daily.
  • Nuts: 1 serving daily.
  • Dairy: 2 servings daily.
  • Legumes: 3–4 weekly servings weekly.
  • Fish: 2–3 weekly servings weekly.
Jul 13, 2023

What is the number one food for your heart? ›

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute , the following foods are the best for your heart: Vegetables: such as leafy greens, broccoli, and carrots. Fruits: such as apples, bananas, and oranges. Whole grains: such as plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread or tortillas.

How can you prevent acquired heart disease? ›

He said the risk of getting some types of acquired heart valve disease (e.g. mitral regurgitation) can be reduced by treating conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and by not smoking, to prevent heart attacks. It is also important to pay attention to diet, and exercise regularly.

How can heart failure be treated or prevented? ›

Treatment often includes lifestyle changes and medicines. If another health condition is causing the heart to fail, treating it may reverse heart failure. Some people with heart failure need surgery to open blocked arteries or to place a device to help the heart work better.

Is 90% of heart disease preventable? ›

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death in the United States. The American Heart Association estimates up to 90% of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and action.

How does exercise prevent heart disease? ›

Being physically active is a major step toward good heart health. It's one of your most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle, keeping your weight under control and warding off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack or stroke.


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