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Reduce Your Risk for Cardiac Disease 

7 Steps to a Healthy Heart

February is American Heart Month, bringing the spotlight to bear on heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Whether you’re healthy or are taking medication for a heart-related condition, now is the time to take control of your heart health. Use these steps to reduce your risk of heart disease.

  1. Know your family history.Family history can put even those who seem healthy at risk. You should know your family history of early coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. If any of these warning signs point toward an increased risk, talk to your doctor about ways to fight back.
  2. Adopt a healthy diet.What changes can you make? Reading food labels, keeping track of what you eat and controlling portion sizes all can help you keep your weight and your fat intake at heart-healthy levels.
  3. Get moving. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), healthy adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Being active will work your heart, help increase your “good” (HDL) cholesterol and help you maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Control your blood pressure and cholesterol—and diabetes if you have this condition. Have blood pressure checked by your physician at least once a year, and keep it under control. Cholesterol should be checked once every five years beginning at age 20, according to the AHA. Always keep diabetes under control.
  5. Stop smoking. When you quit smoking, the health benefits start almost immediately—and after a few years, your risk of heart disease is the same as that of non-smokers. 
  6. Lower your stress. The jury is out on whether stress is a stand-alone risk factor for heart disease or whether it simply worsens other risk factors, such as blood pressure, overeating and smoking. You can controlstress before it controls you by getting regular exercise as well as practicing meditation and breathing exercises.
  7. Be accountable. Whether it’s losing weight, exercising or eating right, it can help to have to answer to someone. A spouse, friend, personal trainer or workout partner can help keep you on track if you share your goals.