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A Healthy Heart, a Healthy You
University of Maryland Capital Region Health
. https://www.umms.org/

A Healthy Heart, a Healthy You

Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities.

Cardiovascular disease costs the United States more than $300 billion each year, including the cost of healthcare services, medications and lost productivity.

Race and ethnicity also affect risk. Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease. African Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have high blood pressure and to develop the condition earlier in life. Approximately two in five African American adults have high blood pressure, yet fewer than half of them have the condition under control.

Many cardiovascular disease deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits, healthier living spaces and better management of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Prevention and Lowering Your Risk

You can control a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diet, physical activity, tobacco use, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. To prevent or manage cardiovascular disease, check out the tips below:

Work with your healthcare team. Get a checkup at least once each year, even if you feel healthy. A healthcare professional can check for conditions that put you at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes – conditions that can go unnoticed for too long.

Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.

Get your cholesterol checked. Your healthcare team should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years.

Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid cardiovascular disease and its complications. Limit sodium, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – adults should have at least five servings each day. Eat foods low in both saturated fat and trans fat, but are high in fiber.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, healthcare professionals often calculate a number called body mass index.

Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. You can incorporate exercise into your day in different ways: take the stairs instead of the elevator or take a lunchtime walk with colleagues.

Don’t smoke. Smoking greatly increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your healthcare team can suggest ways to help you quit.

Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure.

Manage diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely, and talk with your healthcare team about treatment options.

Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, or another condition, follow the instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you have side effects, talk with your healthcare team about your options.

For questions regarding heart disease, please speak with your primary care physician.

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