Heart disease changes the way a heart works and makes it harder for it to pump blood normally. Common forms of heart disease include hypertension, atherosclerosis, and heart failure. You can learn more about the different types of heart disease by visiting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medline Plus website.
- Heart disease is the second leading cause of death.
- One in five women die of heart disease.
- One in four men die of heart disease.
If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
Take Action to Support Your Heart Health!
You can take action to protect your heart and the hearts of those you love.
- Know your risk of heart disease
- Prevent and control heart disease
- Manage your blood pressure
- Manage your cholesterol
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Not everyone is at the same risk of heart disease. Your family history, lifestyle choices, and other health concerns may increase your risk.
Any of the factors below may increase your risk of heart disease. Some risks are not changeable, but others are. The ones you can change are even more important if you have several risk factors that you can't change. Set goals for improving risks and talk to your healthcare provider about your heart health.
Risks you can't change
- Having already had a stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or heart attack
- Having a family history of early heart disease
- Personal or family history of high cholesterol or Familial Hypercholesterolemia
- Race and ethnicity
- History of preeclampsia during pregnancy
Risks you can change
- Having high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Using tobacco or being exposed to secondhand smoke
- Diabetes or prediabetes
- Having high cholesterol numbers that are not in the healthy range, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), and triglycerides
- Carrying too much weight, especially around the waist
- Not enough physical activity
Prevent Heart Disease
Awareness is important, and action is even better. It's never too early—or too late—to take action to prevent and control heart disease.
Know your risk of heart disease
- Know your family health history and share this information with your healthcare provider.
- Learn how family history, lifestyle choices, and other health concerns increase your risk of heart disease.
Check your blood pressure
- Ask your healthcare provider what range is best for you. For most people, that range is less than 120/80.
- Get your blood pressure checked by your provider and track your numbers (PDF).
- Know what your blood pressure numbers mean (PDF).
- Take steps to manage high blood pressure.
Know and manage your cholesterol
- Get your cholesterol/blood lipids checked.
- Take steps to manage your cholesterol.
- Improve your fitness level.
- Make a commitment to engage in moderate physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week. Include strength training activities twice a week.
- Work with your healthcare team to address any concerns keeping you from being active.
- Find a buddy or share your activities on social media to help you keep your commitment.
- Give your eating plan a tune-up. A healthy diet includes:
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Moderate amounts of lean proteins, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
- Limited amounts of fats, especially saturated fats. Avoid trans fats.
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
- Foods low in sugar and salt.
- If you smoke or use tobacco, get help to quit! According to the Surgeon General's report, for smokers over age 35, heart disease claims more lives than lung cancer.
- Talk with your healthcare provider or call the Washington State Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Prevent and manage diabetes
- Know your status—get screened!
- Know your risk factors and make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.
- See if you qualify for the Diabetes Prevention Program.
- Control your diabetes to avoid complications. Work with your healthcare provider to reach goals you both agree on.
Monitor your weight
- Assess your weight and calculate your body mass index (BMI).
- If you are overweight and decide to lose weight, remember that even modest weight loss can mean big health benefits.
- Measure your waist circumference. If your waist circumference is more than 35 inches (if you're a woman) or 40 inches (if you're a man), discuss your weight with your healthcare provider.
- Find ways to reduce stress. Reducing stress can help decrease your risk of high blood pressure.
- Support and monitor your mental health. Depression and anxiety can contribute to heart disease, and make it more challenging to take action.
Talk to your healthcare provider
- Work with your healthcare provider to create a plan to prevent and control heart disease. Sharing your family health history and lifestyle choices can help your healthcare provider determine the time and frequency for screening tests, as well as the best treatment options if you do have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
- Some people require medication to reach their heart health goals. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions.