Doctors Reveal 15 Things You Should Do to Avoid Getting Heart Disease

Heart disease kills more people in the United States than any other two diseases combined. Men and women of all ages can be affected, but you’re more at risk the older you get. Wondering how can you avoid getting heart disease? Your doctor’s answers are the best ones out there.

Here’s everything doctors say you should do to avoid this life-threatening illness.

1. First, know the risks you can’t control

Senior couple

Read up on the signs you should be aware of. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

There’s nothing you can do about your age, your gender, or your family’s health history. You also can’t change your race or ethnicity. All these heart disease risk factors make you more likely to suffer heart trouble — but thankfully, you can, and should, take charge of the following things.

Next: Your doctor might suggest you modify your diet to fix this problem.

2. Manage your cholesterol

Fresh chicken and quail eggs on a wooden rustic background

Limit high-cholesterol foods. | VladislavStarozhilov/iStock/Getty Images

High cholesterol can make it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body, so it’s important to do everything you can to keep your levels under control. If you’ve already been diagnosed with high cholesterol, make sure you limit or avoid these foods to avoid getting sicker.

Next: People with this health condition also face more of a risk.

3. Keep an eye on your blood sugar

oatmeal cookies

Your blood sugar may change as you get older. | Dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

Living with type 2 diabetes — or on your way there? Uncontrolled blood sugar increases your risk of heart disease because it also messes with your blood pressure. If you keep your levels within a normal range, you’re less likely to develop heart problems.

Next: This bad habit is probably slowly killing you.

4. Fix your questionable relationship with sleep

Alarm clock on laptop

Re-prioritize sleep and stick to new habits. | BrianAJackson/iStock/Getty Images

While it’s true your sleep habits and needs change as you get older, your body still needs to rest as much as possible. One too many sleepless nights puts your heart in danger. Can’t seem to fall asleep? These foods might help you get some much-needed rest.

Next: Don’t let this make your heart sick.

5. Practice effective stress management

Senior couple performing yoga exercise

Taking time to move can help reduce stress. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Everyone needs small amounts of stress to keep them going. Too much of it over time, however, messes with your hormones and wears down your heart. If you suspect life’s daily stressors are hurting your health, do what you can to get it under control.

Next: This is one way to tell you’re way too stressed.

6. Control your blood pressure

Older Blood Pressure measurement

Get regular checkups to make sure you’re levels are healthy. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Did you know high blood pressure doesn’t always warn you of its presence? This is why it’s such a dangerous symptom of heart disease. If high blood pressure runs in your family, it’s probably a good idea to have it checked regularly.

Next: If you’re still not doing this after all these years, it’s not too late to start.

7. Eat your vegetables, even if you don’t want to

Vegetables recalled

Good food is vital for good health. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

There’s a reason your doctor (and, years prior, your mom) nags you about your diet. The more plants you eat — including fruits and vegetables — the healthier your heart will be. Adding even a few servings to your daily total can make all the difference. And yes — you can buy them frozen!

Next: Don’t believe everything you hear about foods like this.

8. Avoid eating the ‘wrong’ kind of fat

National Cheeseburger Day is Sept. 18 annually.

That burger may look good, but does it contain healthy fat? | Scott Olson/Getty Images

You’ve likely heard that fatty foods are bad for you, but this claim is only partially true. Foods high in saturated fat, like desserts and over half of most fast food menus, can increase your heart disease risk. Foods like fish, avocados, and nuts contain a different kind of fat that can actually lower your risk.

Next: Step on the scale for the right reasons.

9. Keep your weight in check

woman stepping on weight scale

Check in with your scale regularly. | FotoCuisinette/iStock/Getty Images

Has your doctor suggested you drop a few pounds? They really do have your best interest in mind. Fortunately, getting to and maintaining a healthy weight through both diet and harmless exercise over time can help you avoid getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more.

Next: Whoever told you bread was evil wasn’t telling the whole truth.

10. Eat more grains

Fresh bread

Whole grain products are the way to go. | Magone/iStock/Getty Images

Love toast? Breakfast cereal? Dinner rolls? You’re already on the right track. Grains — the right kinds, anyway — are extremely heart-healthy. Just make sure that the flours, breads, cereals, and other grain-based products you buy are as close to 100 percent whole grain as possible.

Next: Most doctors agree you could do this one thing a lot better.

11. Put away the saltshaker

Traditional glass salt cellar and spilled salt on a wood background

Reducing your salt intake can go a long way. | Sebalos/iStock/Getty Images

Salt is not the enemy. Too much of it, however, makes it pretty difficult to avoid getting heart disease. Some of the foods you wouldn’t expect to hurt you are some of the worst for your health. Getting into the habit of not flavoring your food once it’s on the table is a great starting point.

Next: It’s easier to kick this addiction than it seems.

12. Kick your sugar addiction


You may have to say goodbye to those donuts. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Is sugar slowly killing you? One of the best ways to avoid getting heart disease — and a long list of other unfavorable health conditions — is to eat fewer foods containing added sugars. You can still satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard.

Next: You don’t have to do this as often as you think — but it’s still important.

13. Exercise regularly

elderly ladies workout

Get out and move! | Horsche/iStock/Getty Images

Just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week can significantly lower your risk of heart disease. If you’re out of shape, it’s not too hard to get back into it. These are the exercises you should try, and the ones you should avoid at all costs.

Next: Make sure you’re not drinking too much of this.

14. Don’t drink too much alcohol

Wine lovers can't resist a good pairing of a glass of goodness

Make a glass of wine a treat, not an everyday habit. | Derkien/iStock/Getty Images

The good news is, you don’t have to completely cut alcohol from your life to avoid getting heart disease. Reducing your intake, however, not only lowers your dementia risk, but also protects your heart as you approach old age.

Next: Don’t keep this terrible habit if you want to live a long life.

15. Quit smoking — or don’t start

Smoker smoking

Keep cigarettes out of your life. | Terroa/iStock/Getty Images

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, it’s not too late to quit. Cigarette smoke does plenty of terrible things to your body, but most people don’t know it hurts your heart just as much as it destroys your lungs. Do whatever you have to do to stop — it could save your life.

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