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Stop Doing This Now or Risk a Heart Attack, Says CDC

These heart-healthy habits can keep you ticking.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

You can picture yourself having a heart attack—but why not instead prevent yourself from having one. "Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack," says the CDC. "These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking. You can lower your chances of having future health problems following a heart attack with these steps"—read on for each one, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


Keep Your Cholesterol in Check

high cholesterol

"As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease. When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are also present, this risk increases even more," says the American Heart Association. "A person's cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity and diet." Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels, and to lower your cholesterol, eat heart healthy foods (reduce saturated fats, eliminate trans fats, get your Omega-3s, increase fiber), exercise most days of the week and drink alcohol in moderation.

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Manage Your Blood Pressure

Nurse taking the blood pressure of elderly man

"High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart muscle to thicken and become stiffer," says the AHA. "This stiffening of the heart muscle is not normal and causes the heart to function abnormally. It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. When high blood pressure is present alongside obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases even more." Watch the pounds around your waist, exercise regularly, and reduce stress are a few medication-free solutions.

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Keep the Pounds Off

weight loss equipment

"Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Small changes add up. If you drink sugary beverages, switch to tap water. Snack on air-popped popcorn or pretzels — but keep track of the calories. If you crave something sweet, try sherbet or candies with little or no fat, such as jelly beans," says the Mayo Clinic. "Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office. Take walks during breaks at work. Try to increase standing activities, such as cooking or doing yardwork."

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Don't Drink Too Much

refusing alcohol

"Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren't strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn't already drink," says the Mayo Clinic. "If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes."

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Avoid Tobacco Use

Middle age hoary senior man

"The risk that smokers will develop coronary heart disease is much higher than that for nonsmokers," says the AHA. "Cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease. Cigarette smoking also interacts with other risk factors to greatly increase the risk for coronary heart disease. Exposure to other people's smoke increases the risk of heart disease even for nonsmokers." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek