Heart disease can happen at any age

Tips for reducing your risk of developing heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2019, the American Heart Association reported that nearly half of all U.S. adults had some form of cardiovascular disease. As obesity and high blood pressure rates increase, younger people are now at risk for heart disease earlier in life. Understanding the risk factors, and learning how to take care of your heart health, can help you prevent and manage heart disease at any age.

Know the risk factors

Nearly half of Americans have at least one of the top risk factors of heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and/or obesity. Aside from these major risk factors, other lifestyle choices — such as smoking, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits — can put people at an even higher risk for heart disease.

Experts warn that many of the physical and mental changes we’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including unhealthy eating habits, increased alcohol use, a lack of physical activity, and the effects of isolation and fear of contracting the virus, can all impact heart health risks.

With these risk factors in mind, if you know that heart conditions run in your family, it’s important to talk to your primary care physician about your heart health. The risk for heart disease can increase even more when heredity factors combine with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet.

Tips for reducing your risk

To help lower your chances of getting heart disease, it’s important to do the following:

  • Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Get tested for diabetes. Talk to your primary care physician about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, take advantage of community resources that can help you quit. Sharp HealthCare offers free smoking cessation classes and support for those looking to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. 
  • Make healthy food choices. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease. Sharp HealthCare offers free healthy nutrition classes to support healthy living.
  • Limit how much alcohol you consume. Stick to no more than one to two drinks a day.
  • Manage stress levels. Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Sharp HealthCare offers both free and paid stress management classes and seminars.

Sharp Health Plan Member Tip

All Sharp Health Plan members have access to free one-on-one, telephone-based Best Health® coaching sessions that are completely customized to your individual needs. You can choose from five topics:

  • Healthy weight (for people with a BMI of 25 or higher) — calculate your BMI
  • Smoking cessation
  • Healthy eating
  • Physical activity
  • Stress management

Coaching sessions are free to all Sharp Health Plan members and are offered Monday through Friday from 8 am – 5 pm (last available session is 4:30 pm). For more information, call 1‑877‑849‑2363 or email besthealth@sharp.com.

Want other important preventive health care information? Learn more about cervical cancer here, and view information about colon cancer here.

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