The Majority of Heart Attacks Are Preventable: How to Lower Your Risk

Regular exercise is one of many ways to lower your risk for a heart attack.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death -- and in most cases it’s preventable. Did you know most people can reduce their risk of having a heart attack in just one year? If you can manage your stress, adopt a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and make some practical lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, lose weight, and begin to manage risk factors that contribute to heart attacks.

Learn how you can take control, protect your heart, and improve your overall health and well-being using these suggestions from Dr. Calderon.

Lower your cholesterol

Elevated levels of cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance, can accumulate in your arteries, causing them to narrow and harden, which increases your risk of having a heart attack. The good news is that making certain diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way in bringing your cholesterol within a healthy range.

Keeping your total cholesterol below 200 mg/dl and your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) below 100 mg/dl can significantly reduce the chances of having a heart attack. The best way to do this is to adopt healthy habits, like getting plenty of exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet. Talk to your provider about changes you can make to keep your cholesterol in check.

Lose weight

An estimated 160 million Americans are overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight increases risk factors that raise the chance of having a heart attack. Taking steps to manage your weight can have a major impact on lowering your risk of heart disease and heart attack.  

Getting plenty of physical activity and overhauling your eating habits are the best places to start. It’s recommended that you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Moving more can help you trim down, plus exercise has a positive influence on blood pressure and cholesterol.

Adopt a heart-healthy diet

Besides controlling the amount of saturated fat you get from your diet, it’s best to ensure that your overall diet supports heart health. Base most of your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil.

Limiting sweets, refined carbs, and sugar-sweetened beverages help keep your heart healthy, too. Excess sugar contributes to weight gain, can damage arteries, and has a negative impact on cholesterol levels. A heart-healthy diet limits sugar intake to about 150 calories a day.

Cooking most of your meals at home gives you control over the ingredients. A good heart-healthy meal could contain about 4 ounces of salmon, green beans with a tablespoon of slivered almonds, mixed salad greens drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh berries. Work with a nutrition specialist to develop a nutrient-dense, heart-healthy eating plan that’s individualized to your needs.

Control your blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease. Roughly 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure, and about 20% of those are unaware that they have it. As with other risk factors, losing weight if you need to, getting plenty of exercise, and following a heart-healthy eating pattern can help control your blood pressure. Sometimes lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to keep your blood pressure within a healthy range. In these instances, medication may be necessary.

Don’t smoke

Taking steps to quit smoking can dramatically reduce your risk of having a heart attack. Smoking damages blood vessels and arteries that supply blood to your brain and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. If you’ve had trouble stopping on your own, speak with your primary care provider about strategies to stop smoking. Medications are available to help you quit.

Limit alcohol

Drinking excess alcohol raises triglycerides, increases blood pressure, and depletes nutrients necessary for good health. If you’re a heavy drinker, take steps to reduce your intake. Men should limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day, while women should have no more than one drink per day.

Our team at Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants has your distinct needs at the heart of our care for you. For the highest quality cardiac care, call our office at 941-348-2829 (appointments) or 941-907-1113 (general inquiries) and speak with one of our friendly staff members to schedule an appointment. Or you can book your visit online -- just click the button.