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Lower your risk of heart disease by living healthier.

You can choose to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by changing things you do every day. Eat a plant-based diet. Stay active. Get regular checkups. You’re in charge when it comes to staying heart healthy.

Two women laughing as they stay active to help prevent heart disease.

Know your risk factors for heart disease:

Risk factors you can’t control include age, ethnicity, and heredity—you could be genetically predisposed to developing heart disease. But heart disease can also be caused by things you can control or change.

  • Smoking or drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating a poor diet, such as fast foods or processed foods containing trans fats or saturated fats, or foods with too much salt or sugar
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Chronic conditions such as diabetes
  • Inactivity, lack of exercise, or other controllable factors

If you haven’t had your heart checked recently, make sure to schedule a visit with your health care provider to do so. You’ll learn if you are at risk for heart disease and what you can do about it.

Symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Angina: Dull or heavy-to-sharp chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain in the neck/jaw/throat (women)
  • Pain in the upper back or abdomen
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings or palpitations
  • Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of extremities
  • Heart attack: Heavy-to-sharp chest pain or discomfort, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper-body discomfort, shortness of breath
  • Stroke: Weakness, paralysis, trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness, or sudden and severe headache

Keys to prevention

You play a key role in preventing heart disease.

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by managing your own chronic conditions and health, as well as your diet and activity levels.

  • Check cholesterol level — Once every five years, minimum.
  • Control blood pressure — Check at least once every two years.
  • Manage diabetes — Monitor your blood-sugar levels; consider lifestyle changes.
  • Take your medicine(s) — Follow your health care provider’s instructions carefully and never stop taking medicine without first consulting with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
  • Talk with your health care team — Work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease.
  • Eat healthy — Learn about healthy eating and how to find farmers’ markets near you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight — Determine the best weight for your body type and height using the CDC’s Adult Body Mass Index Calculator.
  • Stay active — Spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day walking, stretching, biking, or doing aerobic exercise. Find state parks, gyms, and other activity centers near you.
  • Limit alcohol — Men should limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day; women should limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day.

Managing stress

How to manage stress.

According to the American Heart Association, worry, anxiety, and negative emotions impact the body’s stress response. This can become a problem when it constantly signals danger about issues that aren’t necessarily a threat, to the point of overwhelming our health, well-being, or clear thinking — even our cardiovascular systems.

Learn more about managing stress