Heart disease is responsible for millions of hospitalizations and deaths worldwide each year. It is the leading killer of American adults. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to heart disease, and there are certain statistical risk factors that are beyond one’s control. But certain lifestyle changes can make anyone less likely to suffer from heart disease.

No matter what your age, there are ways that you can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. These include the following:

* If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, quit. Tobacco use is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease. But your fate is not sealed if you have smoked for years. Your tobacco-related risk for heart disease begins to decrease just a few months after you quit smoking, and after five years, your risk is the same as that of someone who has never smoked.

* Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium as much as possible, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Doing so will help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure low. It will also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is very important in reducing your risk for heart disease.

* Exercise regularly. Working out for 30 minutes each day, or at least three times a week, is good for your heart. It improves your circulation, lowers your blood pressure, and keeps your cholesterol in check.

* If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control. Whether achieved through diet or medication, this is very important. High blood sugar can greatly increase your risk of heart disease.

* Relax. Stress increases your blood pressure and heart rate, thus increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce stress levels.

* Go to the doctor for regular check-ups. Many of the risk factors for heart disease are not readily apparent without testing. You can check your own blood pressure and blood sugar, but it’s good to have it done by a doctor from time to time. And we can’t check our own cholesterol or run other tests by ourselves.

* Consider taking vitamins and other supplements. Your doctor can help you determine which ones can be of benefit to you. Vitamin E is believed to reduce the risk of a heart attack, as are supplements such as CoQ10 and L-carnitine.

There is no magic bullet that prevents heart disease, but you can reduce your risk in a number of ways. By being proactive, you may be able to avoid having to take medication or make drastic changes later on. By making these adjustments to your life, you can increase your chances of living a long, high-quality life.

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