How can I prevent heart disease?

How can I prevent heart disease?

You can cut your risk for heart disease by living a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and eating right.

  • Exercise. Even moderate exercise is good for you. For example, a 30-minute walk every other day can help you maintain cardiovascular fitness. Walking, jogging, swimming, biking and light weight training have been shown to bring down high blood fat levels and raise the levels of "good" cholesterol in the blood.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including a wide variety of foods. Try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and six servings of grains (bread, pasta, cereal and rice).
  • Increase fiber to 25-35 grams each day. Fiber-rich foods can help you lose weight. Many of these foods also provide carbohydrates. Whole-grain foods, cereals, wheat bran and many fruits and vegetables soak up water like a sponge, adding bulk and preventing constipation. Other high-fiber foods are oats, dried beans and peas, lentils, apples and citrus fruits.
  • Limit your protein to 10-15% of your daily calories. The average adult needs 50 grams of protein per day. Protein is in meat, poultry, fish, milk, dairy products, eggs, beans, seeds, nuts, grains and soy products. A 4-ounce serving of meat, poultry or fish supplies 25-35 grams of protein.
  • Reduce fat intake to less than 30% of your daily calories. Read food labels to determine how many calories come from fat. When you reduce dietary fat, you lower your cholesterol. This helps your heart.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation (3-5 ounces of wine, 8-12 ounces of beer, or 1 ounce of liquor per day). If you don’t drink now, don't start drinking.
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water each day.
  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoke adds to the damage already done by high cholesterol and can lead to problems with your arteries (atherosclerosis).

To learn more:

Heart Diseases - Prevention
Links to sites which have been reviewed by librarians at the National Library of Medicine.
Getting Healthy
(American Heart Association)
This site offers recommendations for decreasing risk factors which includes various lifestyle changes.
Heart Attack: Symptoms
(American Academy of Family Physicians)
This is a clearly written patient handout from, a site sponsored by a not-for-profit medical association. For a person wanting to find about heart attacks, what to do if you or someone you know appears to be having a heart attack, and how to avoid them.
On the Move to Better Heart Health for African Americans
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Office of Research on Minority Health offers this online booklet on heart disease prevention. There is information on lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, losing weight and kicking the smoking habit.
pdf icon The link above requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you are unable to view or download this article, get Acrobat Reader here.
Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Excellent information on how to quit smoking and other tobacco habits. Provides descriptions of different methods, tips on handling cravings, weight gain, stress, and more.

next » Where can I go for help and more information about heart disease?

Written by: Doris Wisher, M.L.S.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Tuesday August 25, 2015 10:40 AM