Prevention of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease cannot be prevented in every case. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the following measures may help to reduce the risk for the condition:

  • Do not smoke.
  • See your health care provider regularly. Ask your physician about vitamin supplements that may help prevent heart disease.
  • Eat a well-balanced, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that includes several servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Exercise regularly. Short, frequent sessions of exercise are preferable to a complete sedentary lifestyle.
  • Control blood pressure.
  • Maintain weight appropriate for your frame and build.
  • Manage stress.

Results of a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in February 2013, showed that a Mediterranean diet may may reduce cardiovascular risk substantially.

In February 2011, the American Heart Association (AHA) updated its guidelines for heart disease prevention in women to consider personal, social, and economic factors, and health concerns that can increase risk for heart disease, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and complications during pregnancy (e.g., gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, hypertension). Patient-doctor communication is also identified as key to reducing heart disease risk. It is important for women to let their health care provider know whether she is taking her medication(s) regularly, experiencing drug side effects, and following recommended lifestyle changes or not.

In addition, the updated guidelines for preventing heart disease in women take into account the effects of certain treatments (e.g., hormone replacement therapy [HRT], supplements [antioxidants, folic acid]) on heart disease risk. They also include depression screening because women who are depressed may be less likely to follow their health care provider's recommendations.

For more information about preventing heart disease in women, please go to the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign.

Publication Review By: Karen Larson, M.D., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 10 Feb 2006

Last Modified: 27 Feb 2013