More than 1 million Americans suffer heart attacks every year. Many of them do not survive. Some never even make it to the hospital. The good news is that having a heart attack is not inevitable. Here is a step-by-step process that will help you improve your health, strengthen your heart and reduce your heart attack risk.
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Know your risk. Visit your doctor and talk with him about your personal risk for heart disease. While you cannot change some factors--such as your age, gender and heredity--that increase your risk for heart attack, you can reduce other factors that contribute to your heart attack risk. Risk factors you can modify include: tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an inactive lifestyle, excess weight and diabetes. Your doctor can assess your health and personal history and give you advice about what you need to do to reduce your heart attack risk.
Know your key numbers. Keep track of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as your weight. Place any lab tests or reports from your doctor in a folder so you can access them easily. Monitor your numbers and pay attention to how they change over time. If, for example, your blood pressure or weight are inching higher, take action to lower your blood pressure or lose weight before they become significant problems.
Make positive lifestyle changes. Live a healthier, more active life. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or poultry. Start exercising most days of the week. If it has been years since you laced up your athletic shoes, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to exercise regularly.
Take any medications your doctor prescribes as directed. Work with your doctor to control chronic conditions--such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes--that raise your heart attack risk. If you are morbidly obese, ask your doctor about surgical weight loss solutions.
Stay committed. Do not let your resolve falter like long-forgotten New Year's resolutions. Reducing your heart disease risk is something you should do for the rest of your life. In fact, even people who do not currently have risk factors may want to live healthier lives now because their heart attack risk will rise as they age.