Many of the risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, cannot be influenced, but there are ways to minimize your risk:

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet - that is low in salt but high in fiber. Avoid foods high in saturated fats such as milk products, red meats, and spreads. Total sodium intake should be under 2,400 mg a day. Cook your foods without salt and use olive oil rather than butter. Eat protein-rich legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods with a high glycemic index such as refined sugars, cakes and candies.

Take Your Medication - if prescribed by your doctor. Medication to reduce your blood pressure or cholesterol may save your life!

Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight - to lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure. Exercising helps to increase your HDL, the “healthy” cholesterol, and reduce your total cholesterol. A good rule of thumb is to strive for 30 minutes of exercise a day, and, for those who are able to, at least 6 minutes of cardiac exercise a day. Whenever possible, take the stairs rather than the elevator or walk to the market rather than drive.

Reduce Stress - through relaxation techniques and a positive attitude. Stress causes your heart to have to work harder. Learn what techniques work best for you and then employ them daily.

Stop Smoking - by identifying when you most like to smoke and then changing your daily habits to avoid those times. Substitute for healthier habits like chewing gum, going for walks, or munching on a carrot stick. Avoid contact with other smokers!

Limit Alcohol - to no more than 2 drinks (or 1 ounce of alcohol) per day. Heavy alcohol use can raise your blood pressure.