JAN 12, 2022 10:00 AM PST

How to Protect Yourself from the Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide. In 2020, 690,882 Americans died from heart disease—more than from cancer, stroke, or COVID-19. While there are some risk factors that are out of our control, many small lifestyle changes can lead to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Below are six simple changes that will lead you to a lower risk of heart disease as well as better overall health.

  1. Get regular exercise

Exercise lowers your risk of heart disease and can improve many areas of your health, including helping you maintain a healthy weight and lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. 

  1. Eat a healthy diet and limit alcohol

Diet plays a vital role in heart health as well as overall health. Heart-healthy meals are centered around whole grains, fruits, and vegetables while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, alcohol, added sugar, and salt.

  1. Reach and maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight is a major risk factor for heart disease. Patients who reach and maintain a healthy weight decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer while improving their mood, self-esteem, sleep, and more. To see whether you are at a healthy weight, try out the CDC’s BMI calculator.

  1. Don’t smoke

Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease and is often considered the leading cause of preventable premature death worldwide. Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels in addition to the lungs and other organs. Fortunately, heart disease risk drops and continues to decrease after you quit smoking.

  1. Get enough sleep

Insufficient sleep is a risk factor for heart disease and a variety of other conditions. Most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep per night, but the average American gets less than 6 hours per night. Prioritize sleep to improve your health and lower your heart disease risk.

  1. Check in with your doctor regularly and manage your medical conditions

Several medical conditions can lead to increased risk for heart disease if not properly managed, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Even if you don’t have pre-existing conditions, check in with your doctor regularly to monitor your health and prevent the development of these conditions.

In addition to these six tips, check out this video from the Mayo Clinic on quick and easy ways to lower your risk of heart disease starting today:



Sources: CDC; WHO; JAMA; Mayo Clinic; Health.gov; PubMed; National Safety Council; CDC

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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