One out of every four women dies from heart disease in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
It’s the top killer of U.S. women and men.
Heart disease begins with damage to the lining inside the heart’s arteries. Certain factors contribute to this damage, including smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
However, people can help lower their risk for heart disease, and here are the top four ways to do it:
Maintain a healthy weight
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that being overweight raises risk for developing heart disease. Therefore, make sure to maintain a healthy weight — or Body Mass Index — proportionate to height.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a BMI calculator on their website. After typing in height and weight, the BMI calculator will show if you’re within a healthy weight range. Those who need to lose weight should. Look at ways to exercise throughout the week; consider decreasing a meal’s portion sizes; and eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats such as poultry or fish.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. The nicotine in cigarettes increases blood pressure; and high blood pressure damages the heart’s arteries. Smoking can also cause blood clotting and may directly damage cells that line arteries within the heart.
Monitor blood pressure; lower it if necessary
“Years of high blood pressure can lead to heart disease,” says the Department of Health and Human Services on its website. “People with high blood pressure often have no symptoms, so have your blood pressure checked every one to two years and get treatment if you need it.”
Besides medication, you can lower your blood pressure by losing weight, limiting stress or coping with it well and exercising at least two hours and 30 minutes each week.
Get tested for diabetes and high cholesterol
Too much cholesterol can clog arteries and keep the heart from getting the blood it needs. And having diabetes raises one’s chances of developing heart disease. With both these issues, the only way to detect something wrong is through a blood test.
Lower cholesterol by losing weight and eating a healthful diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. And while a person cannot fix diabetes once it’s been diagnosed, help prevent it by maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise.