Prevent Heart Disease with these Five Steps

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in America but it can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes. Follow these five steps to help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Jul. 8, 2021 3   min read


Every 36 seconds, someone in the United States falls victim to heart disease. The good news? Heart disease can be prevented by maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle and avoiding habits that can increase risk.

David Corteville, MD, a cardiologist at the Sands-Constellation Heart Institute, provides five steps everyone can take to significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5 steps to avoiding heart disease

Exercise regularly

Getting just 30-60 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine can have wonderful health benefits. Exercise helps to control weight and reduce risk of health conditions that may put a strain on the heart, such as high blood pressure or obesity.

“Even if you don’t have time to fit in 30-60 minutes of exercise every day, exercise as much as you can. Any physical activity is better than none,” says Dr. Corteville.

Simple activities like gardening, walking the dog, taking the stairs and cleaning the house can all help get you towards your exercise goal.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, be sure to start off slow and work yourself up to more difficult activities. Talk with your health care provider if you are unsure what physical activities are safe for you to participate in.

Eat a heart-healthy diet

Can eating certain foods really impact your heart health? Absolutely! Dr. Corteville explained that foods high in saturated fat and trans fat can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. He recommends avoiding foods that are high in:

  • cholesterol
  • salt (sodium)
  • sugar
  • saturated fat
  • trans fat

Look to include a lot of fiber in your diet and avoid overindulging in alcohol, as it can cause high blood pressure, especially in men.

“We recommend a Mediterranean diet that includes lots of whole foods, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and olive oil.”

Learn how excessive vs. moderate alcohol consumption affects your body 

Manage stress levels

High levels of stress can lead to a greater risk of heart disease. Studies demonstrate that long-term stress increases levels of cortisol—the primary stress hormone--in the body, which can increase cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

“Doing things for yourself that help reduce stress will help improve your health in a lot of ways. Try building time into your daily schedule to decompress and do something that helps you reduce stress.”

Anyone can work to eliminate stress in many different ways. A few tactics that may help include:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Breathing exercises
  • Exercise
  • Listening to music

Simple lifestyle changes can also keep overall levels of stress down, such as reducing levels of caffeine intake and getting enough sleep every night.

“Avoid coping with stress in unhealthy ways,” said Dr. Corteville. “Don’t turn to smoking, drinking, or drug use. These activities can worsen stress later and are very unhealthy for your body and mind.”

Monitor your numbers

Blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and cholesterol are three measurable indicators of heart health. Regularly monitoring these levels can help you understand your health and work to make improvements when needed.

Attending your routine health screenings is crucial in maintaining and monitoring heart health. However, there are ways to monitor your levels at home in between appointments. Talk to your health care provider to understand what levels and numbers are considered healthy for you.

Avoid unhealthy habits

Certain lifestyle adjustments can have a big impact on heart health. Avoiding unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart will lower your risk of developing heart disease in the long run. Try your best to:

  • Avoid smoking or vaping entirely
  • Avoid irregular, short nights of sleep
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Avoid adding too much extra salt to foods

Don't forget to attend routine health screenings

Dr. Corteville reminds us to never skip a routine health screening. Physicians are here for you to help you stay healthy and better understand your health. Whether it be a lifestyle change, a change to diet, a medication, or a referral to another doctor, there are solutions to the majority of health concerns that a doctor can help you with.

NEXT STEPS Heart Care that Changes Lives

Our Sands-Constellation Heart Institute provides comprehensive cardiac care throughout the region. From prevention and heart monitoring to surgery and long-term recovery from transplant, we're here every step of the way.

Learn More
heart icon
The Sands Constellation Heart Institute Linden Oaks
30 Hagen Drive
Suite 100
Rochester, New York 14618
Visit Location