The number one killer of people in developed countries is heart disease. This is because we tend to engage in lifestyles that are not conducive to good health and allow ourselves to be sedentary, gain weight, and to smoke.

  • 610,000 people die of heart disease in the united states every year
  • 1 in every 4 deaths is from heart disease
  • In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds
  • 1 death from heart disease every 60 seconds

Fortunately, many risk factors for heart disease can be prevented. Here are some things you can do in order to lessen your risk of heart disease, starting as early as in your 20s:

Eat healthy

You can eat healthy at any age to reduce your risk of heart disease. This means eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish (especially oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids), skinless chicken, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

You should not have meat at every meal because meats are high in saturated fats and you should not eat highly processed foods, containing trans fats, which are bad for your heart.

You should eat low fat dairy products and skinless chicken and turkey, limiting red meat and beverages that are high in sugar.

Start an exercise program

You should get used to exercising every day for at least thirty minutes. Aerobic exercise can be fast walking, cycling, jogging, stair stepping, or swimming. Aerobic exercise is any exercise that speeds your heart rate and causes you to breathe faster.

You should also include weight training as part of your exercise (at least twice weekly). Weight training or anaerobic workouts involve using free weights or weight machines that can increase your muscle mass, making your basal metabolic rate higher so you can maintain a healthy weight.

Learn the signs of heart attack and stroke

It isn’t too early to learn these signs, which include chest pain, shortness of breath, and radiating pain to the back, jaw, neck, or arms.

Stroke symptoms include speech difficulties, numbness, and weakness on one side of the body, vision disturbances, and balance difficulties. If a stroke or heart attack is caught early enough, the cellular damage to the tissues can be lowered.

Have regular wellness exams

Even if you consider yourself to be healthy, it is important to have a regular doctor who can screen you for the various risk factors for heart disease so that you can find out your risk factors as early as possible.

This includes regular blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks, and cholesterol checks. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, this can be picked up early so they don’t start to damage your cardiovascular system.

Don’t take up smoking and stay away from second hand smoke

In addition, if you are a smoker, any time is the right time to quit. There are many quit smoking plans that can help you quit smoking. If you are around a smoker, you have a thirty percent greater risk of heart disease when compared to those who aren’t exposed to secondhand smoke.

Know your family history of heart disease

If you have a history of heart disease in your family, your risk of heart disease goes up and you must double your efforts to control those heart disease factors that are controllable.

Having a family history of heart disease deaths doesn’t have to be a death sentence for you if you follow a healthy diet, exercise, are a nonsmoker, and keep your blood sugar down.

Lessen stress in your life

Longstanding stress in your life can increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn damages the blood vessels leading to the heart.

You can practice stress management by learning how to meditate, do yoga, deep breathing exercises, tai chi, and qi gong—all of which have been found to decrease stress. Become a volunteer as this can give you a purpose and can lessen your stress.

Keep your blood sugar normal

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you need to follow your doctor’s instructions as to how to keep your blood sugar within normal range.

High blood sugar damages your arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and a greater risk of developing heart disease. Have your blood sugar checked during well doctor visits, especially if you have a positive family history of diabetes mellitus.

Keep your blood cholesterol within normal range

Have your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked regularly so that you can treat the problem before your arteries develop cholesterol plaques. There are many medications available that reduce cholesterol and decrease the rate of heart disease if dietary measures to control cholesterol fail.

Keep your weight down

Know what your body mass index is and keep it below 25. This can be done through exercise and eating a low calorie diet. People who are overweight or obese have higher risks of diabetes and secondarily have higher risks of having heart disease.

Follow your doctor’s instructions

If you have any of the diseases or conditions mentioned above, you should see your doctor regularly and should follow their instructions to the letter.

This may mean taking medications for diabetes, hypertension, stroke-prevention, and high cholesterol. These can make a difference in the development of heart disease.