Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Nearly 655,000 people die of heart-related issues each year.


While there is a genetic component to cardiovascular disease, lifestyle plays a part — it can increase your chances of having heart problems, but it can also help prevent those problems.


The first step in preventing heart disease is getting a checkup.


Find out your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor to take your blood pressure. Speak honestly with him or her about your family’s medical history. Do any of your immediate relatives have cardiovascular issues or diabetes? Those increase your risk of developing heart disease.


High blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer” because there aren’t any signs. You’ll need a test to make sure it’s in a normal range. Having abnormally elevated blood pressure can damage your arteries. Because they are less elastic than typical arteries, they become clogged more easily. They also need more effort to deliver oxygen and blood to your heart.


The liver produces enough cholesterol for the human body. However, we also ingest cholesterol in foods like milk and meat. When there is too much cholesterol, it can stick to the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow. Sometimes, it causes blockages that prevent blood from reaching the heart.


High blood sugar levels damage nerves and blood vessels over time.


Once a doctor has tested your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, you should know where you stand. If any of those three things are out of control, you must make lifestyle changes to prevent them from leading to heart disease.


To lower your blood pressure, stop smoking and reduce your alcohol intake. If you’re overweight, losing the extra pounds will help. The more you use your heart muscle, the more efficient it will become. Simple exercises like walking and gardening are effective. Consider reducing your stress with meditation, yoga, or journaling.


Control your cholesterol and blood sugar by changing your diet — which should also result in weight loss. Lower your intake of sugar and foods that are high in cholesterol. Cut out packaged foods that are high in salt, which can raise blood pressure.