By Eugene Valsky, M.D.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading global cause of death for both men and women, with more than 17.3 million deaths per year. As such, it’s vitally important to learn more about some of the risk factors of heart disease and ways to reduce them.

What are some risk factors of heart disease?

Some risk factors, such as age and family history of early heart disease, can’t be changed. For women, age becomes a risk factor at 55 in part because their body’s production of estrogen drops. Other risk factors of heart disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
  • Unhealthy diet

How do I find out if I am at risk for heart disease?

A crucial step in determining your risk is to see your doctor for a thorough checkup. Your doctor is an important partner in helping you set and reach goals for maintaining your health. When your doctor asks you questions, answer as honestly and fully as you can. While certain topics may seem personal, it can help your doctor work with you to reduce your risk.

What are some ways to reduce your risk of heart disease?

Regular, moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It will also help to adopt a diet low in salt, saturated fat and transfats. Maintaining a normal body weight and eating fish a few times a week will help as well.

Be sure to get regular physical checkups so that your medical professionals can be aware of any changes to your health that may indicate risks of heart disease.

Dr. Eugene Valsky is a cardiologist and director of Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth’s cardiovascular center. Learn more at bidplymouth.org/cardiology or (508) 746-2000.

The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations * Use up at least as many calories as you take in. * Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. * Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods. * Don’t smoke tobacco — and avoid secondhand smoke.