According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, accounting for one in five of all deaths. While there are certain risk factors that you can’t control, such as your family history, you can dramatically lower your risk of heart trouble by taking proactive lifestyle steps. Here are a few ways to protect your heart health throughout your life.

Practice heart healthy habits

Living a healthier lifestyle is key to preventing many illnesses, including heart disease. Things to consider include:

  • Choose fresh foods that are high in fiber and low in both saturated and trans fats. Reduce your salt and sugar intakes, and drink lightly or not at all.
  • Carrying extra weight is tough on your heart. Talk to your doctor about a healthy weight range for you.
  • Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or biking, at least five days a week.
  • Cigarette smoke is extremely bad for your cardiovascular system. Your doctor can help you quit.

Manage your medical conditions

Underlying medical conditions can increase your risk for heart disease or poor heart health. Pay particular attention to these common conditions:

  • If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will give you target blood sugar ranges for different scenarios (early morning, two hours after eating, etc.). Closely monitor your blood sugar and make lifestyle changes as needed. You may also need medication, depending on the type and severity of your diabetes. A diabetes management class can help you understand exactly what you need to do.
  • High cholesterol levels can be managed with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. You should be screened at least once every four to six years, or more often if you have previously been diagnosed with high cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure often has no symptoms, but it can dramatically raise your risk for heart disease. Have yours checked at least every two years, or more often if you have a hypertension diagnosis. It can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes.

Always take your medications on time and as directed. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescriptions. And note that some common medications may interact with other medicines, as well as certain foods or beverages. Pay attention to all instructions.

Partner with your heart health treatment team

Everyone has a unique health profile, including risk factors for heart disease. Depending on your individual state of health, your treatment team could include one or more specialists as well as your primary doctor. Together, they can craft a customized plan designed to promote heart health based on your personal needs. Work hard to implement their recommendations, and be sure to ask plenty of questions about anything you don’t understand. Let them know if anything changes in your daily life.

Protecting your heart health isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t need to be overly difficult. Working with your treatment team to control any underlying conditions and making a commitment to your overall health can dramatically lower your risk of heart trouble.