Managing Risk Factors

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide — and it doesn't always have symptoms.

Don't wait for symptoms before you take control of your heart health. Act now by simply knowing what your risk factors are, and then manage or eliminate them. Experts at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute can help.

Some people seek help when they first notice chest pain, shortness of breath and palpitations. Patients should act at the very first sign that they might be at risk: a family history of heart disease.

Other key risk factors for heart disease include:

Once you've determined you have one or more risk factors, take action to reduce your risk. Some suggestions are:

  • Diet: Eat heart-healthy foods. Fuel your body with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish. Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Limit your salt intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day if you have heart-disease risk.
  • Exercise: Move your body. Regular aerobic exercise helps manage your risk of heart disease. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity five days a week will do the trick, according to the American Heart Association. To lower blood pressure and cholesterol, up your goal to 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity three to four times a week.
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol. Don't hesitate to seek assistance through a smoking cessation program that can provide extra tools and support. Alcohol consumption should be limited to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one for women. More than that increases risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other diseases.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to higher blood pressure and higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Shoot for six to eight hours a night.
  • Know your numbers. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Keep them in the healthy range.
  • Medications: Discuss your risk with your doctor. Medications such as statins and aspirin are powerful tools that apply to certain patients. Your physician may recommend that you take medications to control high blood pressure and diabetes.

Cedars-Sinai has been a leader in identifying and promoting practices to prevent heart attacks. We can assist you in understanding your risk factors and taking steps to help you prevent heart disease.