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 Heart Disease Prevention

Heart Disease Prevention

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart disease. This condition results when cholesterol and other substances (plaque) build up inside the walls of the blood vessels that supply your heart muscle (arteries). This buildup in arteries is called atherosclerosis. You can take actions to lower your risk of heart disease.

How can heart disease affect me?

Heart disease can cause many unpleasant symptoms and complications, such as:
  • Chest pain (angina).
  • Reduced or blocked blood flow to your heart. This can cause:
    • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
    • Heart attack.
    • Heart failure.

What can increase my risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • High cholesterol.
  • Smoking.
  • A diet high in saturated fats or trans fats.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Obesity.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Diabetes.
  • Having a family history of heart disease.

What actions can I take to prevent heart disease?


  • Eat a heart-healthy eating plan as told by your health care provider. Examples include the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan or the Mediterranean diet.
  • Generally, it is recommended that you:
    • Eat less salt (sodium). Ask your health care provider how much sodium is safe for you. Most people should have less than 2,300 mg each day.
    • Limit unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, in your diet. You can do this by eating low-fat dairy products, eating less red meat, and avoiding processed foods.
    • Eat healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids). These are found in fish, such as mackerel or salmon.
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables. You should try to fill one-half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
    • Eat more whole grains.
    • Avoid foods and drinks that have added sugars.


  • Get regular exercise. This is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Generally, it is recommended that you:
    • Exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week (150 minutes each week). The exercise should increase your heart rate and make you sweat (aerobic exercise).
    • Add strength exercises on at least 2 days each week.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. These can damage your heart and blood vessels. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.

Alcohol use

  • Do not drink alcohol if:
    • Your health care provider tells you not to drink.
    • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
  • If you drink alcohol, limit how much you have:
    • 0–1 drink a day for women.
    • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
  • Be aware of how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one typical bottle of beer (12 oz), one-half glass of wine (5 oz), or one shot of hard liquor (1½ oz).


  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Ask your health care provider whether you should take an aspirin every day. Taking aspirin may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Depending on your risk factors, your health care provider may prescribe medicines to lower your risk of heart disease or to control related conditions. You may take medicine to:
    • Lower cholesterol.
    • Control blood pressure.
    • Control diabetes.

General information

  • Keep your blood pressure under control, as recommended by your health care provider. For most healthy people, the upper number of your blood pressure (systolic) should be no higher than 120, and the lower number (diastolic) no higher than 80. Treatment may be needed if your blood pressure is higher than 130/80.
  • Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. Your health care provider may check your blood pressure more often if you have high blood pressure.
  • After age 20, have your cholesterol checked every 4–6 years. If you have risk factors for heart disease, you may need to have it checked more frequently. Treatment may be needed if your cholesterol is high.
  • Have your body mass index (BMI) checked every year. Your health care provider can calculate your BMI from your height and weight.
  • Work with your health care provider to lose weight, if needed, or to maintain a healthy weight.

Where to find more information:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/heartdisease
  • American Heart Association: www.heart.org
    • Take a free online heart disease risk quiz to better understand your personal risk factors.


  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world.
  • Heart disease can cause chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attack, and heart failure.
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are the main risk factors for heart disease, although other factors also contribute.
  • You can take actions to lower your chances of developing heart disease. Work with your health care provider to reduce your risk by following a heart-healthy diet, being physically active, and controlling your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol level.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.