Heart Disease: What Can You Do To Prevent It?

Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults. It is happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. February is Heart Month, the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take now to help your heart.


Heart disease—and the conditions that lead to it—can happen at any age. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life. Half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking). Learn how to be heart healthy at any age.


  • Eat a healthy diet. You’ve heard it over and over, it still holds true. 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 – at least five a day. Lean protein and whole grains area part of a healthy eating plan also. 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.


  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. Eat less and move more is the way to a healthy weight and heart.


  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity daily.


  • Not smoking or using other forms of tobacco. Tobacco use greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don’t use tobacco now, don’t start. If you do, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Call the Kansas QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or go to KSquit.org for help.


  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1.


How much do you know?


1. True or false? Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in the United States.


ANSWER: False. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. About 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year—that’s 1 of every 4 deaths.


2. Having high blood pressure, having high cholesterol, and smoking tobacco all increase your risk for heart disease. How many American adults have at least 1 of these 3 risk factors for heart disease?


• 24%

• 37%

• 47%

•  76%


ANSWER: 47%. About half of all American adults have at least 1 of the 3 major risk factors for heart disease—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop heart disease. Other risk factors for heart disease include the following:

    • Having diabetes.
    • Not getting enough exercise.
    • Eating an unhealthy diet.
    • Being obese.
    • Having a family history of heart disease.


3. How many Americans will have a heart attack for the first time this year?


• Less than 50,000

• 100,000

• 500,000

• More than 600,000


ANSWER: More than 600,000. About 735,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. Of those 735,000 heart attacks, about 525,000 happen to people who have never had a heart attack before.

People who have had a first heart attack are more likely to have another one. Learn more about life after a heart attack.


4. You have a better chance of surviving a heart attack if you know the warning signs. Which of these is a warning sign of a heart attack?


• Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back

• Shortness of breath

• Feeling weak, lightheaded or faint

• All of the above



ANSWER: All of the above. There are five major signs and symptoms of a heart attack:

    • 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.

Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness, pain in the upper abdomen, and nausea or vomiting. If you or someone you’re with shows any of these warning signs, call 9-1-1 right away.


5. True or false? Heart disease can run in a family.



ANSWER: True. Family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles, and environments that can influence their health and their risk for disease.

Members of a family can pass traits from one generation to another. Some of the traits you inherit from your parents can affect your risk for heart disease.

Your risk can increase even more when inherited traits combine with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking tobacco and eating an unhealthy diet.


6. By making healthy choices, you can help lower your risk for heart disease. Which one of these is not part of a healthy lifestyle?


• Being physically active

• Taking medicine prescribed by your doctor

• Smoking tobacco

• Eating a healthy diet


ANSWER: Smoking. Smoking Tobacco raises your blood pressure and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your health care team can suggest ways to help you quit. Call the Kansas QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or go to KSquit.org for help.

For more information go to www.cdc.gov.

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