A risk factor is something about you that increases your chance of getting a disease or having a certain health condition. Some risk factors for heart disease you cannot change, but some you can. Changing the risk factors that you have control over will help you live a longer, healthier life.
Risk Factors You Cannot Change
Some of the things about you that increase your risk of getting heart disease that you CANNOT change are:
- Your age. Risk of heart disease increases with age.
- Your gender. Men have a higher risk of getting heart disease than women who are still menstruating. After menopause, the risk for women is the same as the risk for men.
- Your genes or race. If your parents had heart disease, you are at higher risk. African-Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans also have a higher risk for heart problems.
Risk Factors You Can Change
Some of the risks for heart disease that you CAN change are:
- Not smoking. If you do smoke, quit.
- Controlling your cholesterol through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed. See also: Cholesterol - drug treatment
- Controlling high blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed. See also: Controlling your blood pressure
- Exercising at least 30 minutes a day
- Keeping to a healthy weight by eating healthy foods, eating less, and joining a weight loss program, if you need to lose weight
- Learning healthy ways to cope with stress through special classes or programs, or things like meditation or yoga
- Limiting how much alcohol you drink to 1 drink a day for women and 2 a day for men
Good nutrition is important to your heart health and will help control some of your risk factors.
- Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Choose lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, beans and legumes.
- Choose low-fat dairy products, such as 1% milk and other low-fat items.
- Avoid sodium (salt) and fats found in fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods.
- Eat fewer animal products that contain cheese, cream, or eggs.
- Read labels, and stay away from "saturated fat" and anything that contains "partially-hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" fats. These products are usually loaded with unhealthy fats.
Cholesterol and your lifestyle
How to read a food label
Follow these guidelines and the advice of your doctor to lower your chances of developing heart disease.
Heart disease - prevention
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