Heart and Vascular Health 10 Ways to Reduce Heart Disease Risk By Heart and Vascular Institute, February 1, 2014 Did you know that heart disease and heart attacks are preventable? Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Heart specialists have identified essential ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. These involve reducing the factors that lead to clogged arteries, which can restrict or cut off blood flow to the heart. How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease If you smoke, stop: Smoking causes a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. Lower your blood pressure: High blood pressure makes the heart pump harder and can cause artery walls to bulge or burst. Lower your cholesterol: High cholesterol results in accumulation of plaque in the arteries. Get treatment for diabetes: Diabetes causes inflammation of blood vessels and results in more plaque-forming cholesterol. Reduce your waistline: Abdominal obesity increases cholesterol levels, plaque, and inflammation of arteries. Reduce stress: Stress can increase cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Eat healthy: High-fat diets increase cholesterol. Eat foods low in fat, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Exercise: 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week burns fat and lowers cholesterol. Drink alcohol in moderation: Individuals whose lifestyles include one 12-ounce beer, one four-ounce glass of wine, or one ounce of liquor up to three times a week have been shown to have a reduced risk of heart disease. Consumption in excess of that increases the risk of heart disease. Eat less: Reducing total calorie intake reduces fat that raises cholesterol. If you are at risk, or think you may be at risk for any of these factors, or to learn more about how to reduce your risk for heart disease, consult your primary care physician or visit UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC.com/HVI.