Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in every four deaths. If there is a single answer to preventing heart disease, it is lifestyle. Some heart disease risk factors – smoking, physical activity, weight and blood pressure are controllable; age, gender, and genetics are not. Most patients with whom I’ve discussed reducing the risk of heart disease have heard a common theme, and maybe even one of my favorite lines, “There is no pill better than a healthy diet and exercise.”

Which diet and exercise plan is best needs to be individualized based a person’s medical and family history, as well as personal preference. One of the main focuses of reducing heart disease risk is lowering cholesterol, or fat in the blood. Exercise, combined with numerous diet plans can achieve this. I have seen success with portion control, macronutrient, Mediterranean, ketogenic, vegan, and vegetarian diet plans. The key to each person’s success was combining it with exercise and avoiding sweetened drinks, not smoking, and limiting alcohol. For those who have no plan to change their lifestyle, cardiovascular risk can be reduced with several medications.

As previously mentioned, exercise plays a very important role in a heart healthy lifestyle. Move, move, move. Anything is better than nothing; but in general, all persons should aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly – 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

Your doctor or healthcare provider can help you assess your heart disease risk factors and discuss which lifestyle changes are best for you.

Josh Strehle, DO