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How To Keep Your Heart Healthy

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Updated June 06, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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While heart disease kills more men and women than any other disease in developed countries, it turns out there's a lot you can do to keep your heart healthy.

We have learned a tremendous amount in recent years about the risk factors that predispose us to heart disease. One of the important things we have learned is that each of us has significant control over most of these risk factors. And therefore, to a large extent, each of us holds our cardiac fate in our own hands. Even people who have strong a genetic predisposition to heart disease can often significantly delay the onset of heart problems by adopting healthy lifestyles.

There are at least eight categories of lifestyle choices that can substantially impact your odds of developing heart disease. The following is a list of resources that will help you understand the kinds of lifestyle changes you can make, in each of these eight categories, to help prevent heart disease and keep your heart healthy.

1) Manage Your Diet and Weight

A poor diet often leads to obesity, and obesity can be very damaging to the heart and vascular system (especially when it is accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle). These articles will help you understand the risk, and what you can do about it.

2) Get Plenty of Exercise

A sedentary lifestyle is very bad for the entire cardiovascular system, and it can also contribute to metabolic problems, such as high cholesterol and high blood sugar. Getting plenty of exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Here is some important information on preventing heart disease with exercise.

3) Don't Smoke

Of all the things you can do to ruin your health, smoking is the most ruinous. If you smoke you are likely to develop heart disease decades earlier than you otherwise might. Even if you don't develop premature heart disease, you will likely suffer from one of the other scourges of smoking - cancer, lung disease, premature aging, and other conditions that make you sickly, or wrinkly and old, before your time. Here is some important information for smokers.

4) Manage Your Cholesterol Levels

Blood lipids - cholesterol and triglycerides - are important determinants of cardiac risk. Here's what you should know about bad cholesterol, good cholesterol, and the things you can do - diet, lifestyle and medications - to keep your cardiac risk as low as possible.

5) Manage Your Blood Pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is extremely common, and is often poorly treated. Unfortunately, inadequately-treated hypertension can lead to both heart attacks and especially strokes. Here is some basic information you should know about blood pressure.

6) Learn to Manage Stress

Does stress really cause heart disease? What kind of stress? And what can you do about it? The following articles will help answer these questions.

7) Control Your Blood Sugar

Insulin resistance - which can manifest as either diabetes of metabolic syndrome - leads to high blood sugar and a host of other metabolic problems that greatly increase your risk of heart disease. Here is some important information on diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

8) Other Things You Should Know To Keep Your Heart Healthy

In addition to all of the above, there are several other risk factors and lifestyle choices that may impact on your chances of getting heart disease. Some of these are listed here.

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