Seven Things You Can Start Doing Today to Lower Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

During the month of February, Cooper University Health Care is celebrating American Heart Month – reminding us all of the importance of raising awareness of heart disease and committing to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Heart Disease Statistics:

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s one in every four deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. As many as one out of every three women will develop some form of heart disease in her lifetime and more than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people.

Risk Factors:

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • High cholesterol
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure

Preventing Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help protect your heart.

Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which research has shown can be effective in reducing your risk for heart disease. Other heart-healthy super stars are oatmeal, which can lower cholesterol, and blueberries, which are rich in antioxidants. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before changing your diet. Some foods, including grapefruit, can interact with medications you might be taking.

2. Limit your saturated fat intake and processed sugar.

Incorporate naturally sweet food like sweet potatoes to your existing diet. Sweet potatoes have a dual benefit – satisfying your sugar cravings and having a high nutrient value. Get creative by using online food calculators, like, Super Tracker, and other applications to see how different food swaps can impact your health.

3. Attempt to get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Exercising for 30 minutes or more on most days can help you improve your existing cholesterol levels, help you lower your overall body fat, and improve your systolic blood pressure. The beauty behind exercise is that it can be accumulated throughout the day and does not have to be done all at once. In addition to improving heart health, exercise can elevate your energy levels and improve your mood. Please consult your physician to decide what exercise program is right for you.

4. Do not smoke or use tobacco products.

Of all cardiovascular-related deaths, 30 percent are due to smoking. Tobacco contains chemicals that can damage the lining of your heart and blood vessels. It is essential to avoid tobacco products all together. Your heart and lungs will thank you for it!

5. Monitor your body mass index (BMI).

Body mass index is the measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.  Having an elevated BMI can put a person at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Normal BMI levels for the average person should be 18.5 to 24.9. Your BMI can be measured at your primary care provider. BMI can be maintained or lowered through a healthy diet regimen and should be brought to your Cooper physician’s attention.

6. Monitor your blood pressure.

Monitoring your blood pressure is essential to maintaining your heart health. Ideal blood pressure is a systolic BP <120 mm Hg and a diastolic BP mm Hg <80.  If you have high blood pressure, it is recommended to monitor your blood pressure numbers at least a few times a week. If you’re under treatment for high blood pressure, please consult your physician on how often to check your BP. Blood pressure can be controlled through a heart healthy diet, avoiding tobacco, limiting your alcohol intake, and exercising daily.

7. Manage your stress.

Chronic stress can put you at risk for a heart attack. Stress exposes the body to consistent, elevated levels of stress hormones which can cause a rise in blood pressure. You can help control your stress levels by exercising on a daily basis, getting enough sleep, participating in calming activities, listening to music, and taking breaks throughout the day.  

To learn more about heart services at Cooper, visit

Need an appointment to see a Cooper cardiologist? Call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737).

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