The "big five" risk factors—smoking, family history, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure—all raise your risk for heart attacks, says Marla Mendelson, M.D., a professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. To reduce your risk, she suggests you:
- LEARN YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
If someone in your family had cardiovascular disease before age 55, your risk goes up.
- DON'T SMOKE
Did we really have to tell you this?
- KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Do your own cholesterol and blood pressure math. Optimal total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL, while BP should be no higher than 120/80.
- EXERCISE REGULARLY
Get at least five hours of cardio every week.
- EAT WELL
Keep fast food to a minimum and stick to a diet high in lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.
- KEEP YOUR COOL
Stress doesn't hurt as much as the things you do when you're stressed—eat too much, drink too much, and don't exercise. Find healthy ways to handle it.