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How to reduce your risk of heart disease



Death rate from cardiovascular disease increases for middle-aged Americans. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk.

Control your blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure – the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats, pumps blood – should be 120 or less, and your diastolic pressure – when the heart is refilled with blood – should be 80 or less. If your blood pressure is 130/80 or more, your doctor will likely encourage lifestyle changes at the beginning and may prescribe medication. Your doctor will probably prescribe medication and still encourage lifestyle changes if your blood pressure is 140/90 or above.

Check your cholesterol. If you have a high risk of heart disease, your LDL or "bad" cholesterol should be below 1

00 or below 70.

Exercise! The American Heart Association encourages at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. If you don't have time for a serious workout, take a walk or jump over the elevator and take the stairs.

Eat a heart healthy diet. It includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, fish, skinless poultry, whole grains and nuts and legumes. Limit saturated fat, sodium, red meat and sweets, says AHA.

Maintain a healthy weight. As people age, they begin to gain weight. "You have to fight it," says Steven Nissen, head of the heart and vascular institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Scientists are also investigating the potential risks of weapons. A recent study suggested that e-cigarette flavorings may increase the risk of heart disease. Research is ongoing.

Get a calcium scan. If your doctor tries to determine if you need a statin to lower your cholesterol, a coronary artery calcium test can help determine if you want to benefit. The test is a CT scan that controls the build-up of calcified plaque, and helps determine who is at risk for heart disease before the symptoms occur.

For more information on what you can do to reduce the risk, check out "Life's Simple 7," a heart health checklist of the American Heart Association.

Write to Betsy McKay at betsy.mckay@wsj.com


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