In spite of what many believe, a heart attack is not necessarily a “natural cause” of death. It is usually the first symptom of an underlying problem like heart disease, which is a leading cause of death worldwide for men and women of all ages, races, and ethnicities.

Every minute someone dies from a heart attack.

What’s most saddening is that heart disease is largely preventable.

There are many lifestyle choices and related medical conditions that put both men and women at a higher risk for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cigarette smoking, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol abuse.

In light of these facts, it’s absolutely critical for us all to take action in order to prevent heart disease. It’s killing our fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and friends much too soon.

So, how can you prevent this disease and its deadly consequences? Here are three things you can do today in order to reduce your risk of developing heart disease:

1. Get a medical exam AND discuss your results with your physician.

This assessment includes, but is not limited to:

  • A fasting blood lipid profile in order to assess your cholesterol levels and overall risk of heart disease;
  • A fasting blood glucose test to assess your risk of type 2 diabetes;
  • Blood pressure measurements to assess your risk of high blood pressure; and
  • Height and weight measurements to assess for overweight and/or obesity.

Be sure to discuss ALL your results with your physician and make sure that you understand them. Oftentimes, physicians will tell you that your results are “normal” without further explanation. Take control of your health by asking the right questions.

Related Article: High Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

2. Eat sensibly and refrain from smoking tobacco.

You can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease by consuming adequate amounts of health-promoting micronutrients and sensible portions of essential macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein). You should also moderate your alcohol consumption limiting it to no more than 2 drinks a day (1 drink a day for women) and make an effort to avoid smoking altogether.

Related Article: How Drinking Red Wine Every Day Supports Good Health

3. Engage in regular physical activity.

You can literally cut your risk of heart disease in half by performing cardiovascular (cardio) exercise and spontaneous physical activity for at least an hour a day, 5-7 days per week. It’s also important to include at least two days of full-body weight training in your exercise routine for added protection.

Following these three strategies can GREATLY lower your risk of heart disease and ultimately reduce your risk of having a heart attack. If just one of the risk factors I mentioned applies to you, now’s the time to implement some real change for good. Your health is truly at stake!

For more information about heart disease prevention and treatment visit the American Heart Association online.