Don’t Risk It All

Don’t Risk It All

We have the saying “serious as a heart attack” for a reason. A heart attack is always serious — and always something that’s best avoided.

Heart disease is a leading killer of men and women in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaving site icon (CDC), about 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. Some risk factors of heart disease, such as family history and age, can’t be changed. But there are many risk factors that you can change.

Are You at Risk?

About half of all Americans have at least one of the three main risk factors for heart disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol (which can clog arteries) 
  • Smoking

Other risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Diabetes
Take Steps to Cut Your Risk

By controlling risk factors, you can protect your heart. Start with lifestyle changes you can make to cut your risk.

Try these recommendations from the American Heart Association: leaving site icon

  • Quit smoking. Get help at leaving site icon
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Lower high blood pressure.
  • Move every day.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Learn how to reduce your stress level.
  • Limit alcohol.

If you take heart medicine, be sure to take it as your doctor directed.  

If you think you have risk factors for heart disease, talk to your doctor about what you can do to help your heart.

If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away.

Statin Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease

You may have heard that statin therapy can help your heart. But what are statins? Statins are drugs prescribed to help lower cholesterol. Studies have shown they lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Whether you need to be on a statin depends on your cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease. Your doctor will look at all your health conditions before giving you a statin.

Most people have few problems taking statins. But they can have side effects. So tell your doctor about any new symptoms you have. But don’t stop taking statins or other prescriptions without first talking to your doctor.

Sources: Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019; Heart Disease Facts, leaving site icon CDC, 2019; Heart Attack Symptoms, Risk, and Recovery, leaving site icon CDC, 2019; Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2017; Statins: Are these cholesterol-lowering drugs right for you?, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020; Cholesterol-lowering Medicine, leaving site icon CDC, 2017

Originally published 6/11/2020; Reviewed 2022