Simple Changes to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. It’s an umbrella term for the numerous conditions that can affect the heart, including arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke or heart valve problems. Many diseases relating to the heart and its surrounding arteries are caused when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries and compromises blood flow to and from the heart. Symptoms can include pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea or extreme fatigue. Heart disease symptoms can present themselves differently between and amongst men and women. It is the leading cause of death, but people have a significant amount of control in preventing heart disease. Many conditions can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices. Here are some tips to get you started with taking better care of your heart: Don’t smoke or use tobacco: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs and techniques to help you kick the habit. Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Limit saturated fats, sodium and sugar intake throughout the day. Instead, choose plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. When choosing protein sources, lean meat, poultry and fish are some of your best low-fat options. Exercise, exercise, exercise: Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease. Exercise can help you manage your weight and also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Aerobic activities like walking, jogging, swimming or biking are a good place to start if you don’t currently have an exercise routine in place. Rest and relax: Make sure you’re practicing healthy sleeping habits and getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If not, you are raising your risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. It’s also important to relax for stress management. Choose healthy ways to relieve stress like exercise or meditation over habits like alcohol or smoking that have a negative impact on your health. If you’re not doing all of these things, it doesn’t mean you’re destined for heart disease. It’s important to keep your regular primary care doctor appointments so they can look for early signs of heart disease and advise you on other ways to lower your risk. Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor by calling 1-800-INSPIRA or find the nearest Inspira primary care office.