How to Prevent Heart Disease

The American Heart Association has noted that heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States almost every year since 1900, and rates of it are expected to continue to rise (Bank, 2008). Some cases of heart disease may be due to genetic factors, but as Werko (1971) has observed, most incidences of heart disease are likely not attributable to genetics. Therefore, it is important to take preventative measures to ward off heart disease, as lifestyle factors undeniably have an impact on rates of heart-related ailments. Fortunately, most of the measures that can be taken to prevent heart disease are relatively simple.

Exercise and Decreased Heart Disease Risk

It's no secret that exercise has a positive impact on heart health, and recent studies have shown just how large its effect can be. Gravelin (2003) has asserted that aerobic exercise prevents heart disease by strengthening the heart muscle. He has also cited a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that five hours of walking a week reduced heart disease risk by 50 percent.

Herder and Demmig-Adams (2004) have mentioned similar benefits of exercise, stating that it lowers heart disease risk by contributing to multiple factors, such as weight maintenance, decreased stress, and lowered blood pressure. The proven benefits of exercise make it a crucial part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.

The Impact of a Healthy Diet

Exercise is not the only contributor to heart health; dietary factors also play a role in the prevention of heart disease. Herder and Demmig-Adams (2004) concluded that a diet low in saturated fats, but high in fruits and vegetables, as well as omega-3 fats, can be expected to promote cardiovascular health. Dr. Akira Sekikawa reached a similar conclusion, as his study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that omega-3 fatty acids may be responsible for the low rates of heart disease seen among the Japanese population (as cited in Dye, 2008). Clearly, the evidence supports the theory that dietary factors play a role in heart disease, and experts recommend that people limit the consumption of the following to protect themselves from cardiovascular disease: butter, pork, red meats, whole milk, and eggs (Volk, 2007).

Negative Effects of Smoking

The negative benefits of cigarette smoking on the respiratory system are conceivably well-known, but smoking also has adverse effects on cardiovascular health. Simon and Zieve (2009) have noted that smoking can increase the risk of heart disease by up to 33 percent and also contribute to blood vessel damage.

Luckily, efforts to quit smoking can have a considerable impact on heart health. After a year of not smoking, the risk of heart disease drops by 50 percent, and after three to four years the risk level returns to that of someone who has never smoked (Das, Dash, Kabir, and Prasad, 2009).
Heart disease may be the leading cause of death in the United States, but preventative measures can have a substantial impact on heart health. It seems that a combination of a healthy diet and an exercise regimen, as well as abstaining from smoking, promote a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Bank, G. (2008). Conquering cardiovascular disease. Prepared Foods, 177(1), NS3-NS8.
Das, B.C., Dash, A.K., Kabir, Z., and Prasad, D.S. (2009). Smoking and cardiovascular health: A review of the epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention, and control of tobacco. Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 11, 520-533.
Dye, D. (2008). High omega-3 diet linked with lower heart disease risk. Life Extension, 14(11), 23.
Gravelin, R. (2003). The easiest way to prevent heart disease. Natural Health, 33(3), 47-49.
Simon, H., & Zieve, D. (2009). Smoking. Smoking, 1-12.
Smith, L. (2008). Heart Ed 101. Journal of American College Health, 56(6), 698-700.
Volk, M. (2007). An examination of the evidence supporting the association of dietary cholesterol and saturated fats with serum cholesterol and development of coronary heart disease. Alternative Medicine Review, 12(3), 228-245.
Werko, L. (1971). Can we prevent heart disease? Annals of Internal Medicine, 74(2), 278-288

Contact your HealthwoRx™ physician for more information about screenings and heart disease prevention.