How can I prevent heart disease?
Annie Celigoj, MD, is a cardiologist with Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: I have heard that exercise can help prevent heart disease. I thought heart disease was more of a hereditary problem. Are there things I can do to prevent heart disease?
Answer: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, so if you do have a family history of heart disease, it is important you talk with your physician as soon as possible to learn how you can stay healthy.
There are a number of conditions that could be considered “heart disease.” However, for every condition that falls under that type of diagnosis, there are risk factors that cannot be controlled, such as a family history of heart disease or race. But there also are some risk factors that can be controlled, such as exercise and healthy living.
If you fall under one or more of the risk factors, such as older male or post-menopausal female with a family history of heart disease, start looking at the risk factors you can control through lifestyle changes. Those risk factors include:
- High LDL or “bad” cholesterol and low HDL or “good” cholesterol
- Uncontrolled blood pressure (high or low)
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Physical inactivity
- Uncontrolled stress and anger
Changing any or all of these risk factors can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, not to mention make you healthier all over. Add that with a heart healthy diet low in sodium, high in vitamins, minerals and nutrients and you will help keep yourself heart healthy with minimal effort.