Heart Disease Prevention

Nurse with a patient

To speak with a cardiovascular specialist, call 1-800-492-5538.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. But it is a disease that you can take steps to prevent. Our University of Maryland Heart and Vascular Center specialists work with you to develop a personalized plan that will lower your risk for heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the nation's single leading cause of death for both men and women:

  • 58.8 million: The number of people in this country who suffer from some form of heart disease.
  • 950,000: The number of Americans who die from cardiovascular diseases (the combination of heart disease and stroke) 

The good news is that you can take measures today to prevent heart disease. Studies show that nearly everyone can become more heart healthy by following a few key steps, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight. Learn more about our Center for Preventive Cardiology.

Heart disease is any disorder that affects the heart's ability to function normally. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is when the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked. Some people are born with abnormalities (congenital heart disease). Forms of heart disease include:

Heart Disease Can Happen to Anyone

People have many misconceptions about heart disease. One is that heart disease only happens to the elderly. However, according to American Heart Association:

  • Almost 150,000 Americans who die from cardiovascular disease each year are under the age of 65.
  • One out of every 20 people below the age of 40 has heart disease.

It is never too early to begin taking good care of your heart. Let our heart experts help.

There are many risk factors for heart disease. While some are not in your control (like age or family history), others you can control by making some lifestyle modifications.

Risk factors you cannot control include:

  • Family history of heart disease (especially with onset before age 55)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Age (65 and older)
  • Women, after the onset of menopause (while men are at risk at an earlier age than women, after menopause, women are equally at risk)

Risk factors you can control:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Being overweight by 30 percent
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels (specifically, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides)
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)

Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, lowering cholesterol and quitting smoking reduce certain risk factors. Maryland Heart Center physicians are studying some other, more unusual, preventive measures:

  • Laughter: A study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect against a heart attack because it helps lower your stress levels. Laughter may actively improve the lining of your blood vessels. Read more about the study.

    In addition to laughter, you can also reduce stress by practicing stress-reducing methods such as yoga and meditation.

  • Drinking tea: Drinking black or green tea (which contain antioxidants) can also protect you against heart disease. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center concluded that the tea may help reduce a potentially harmful constriction of blood vessels after a high-fat meal. Their study adds to a growing body of research that suggests antioxidant-rich foods (such as vegetables and fruits) and beverages may help to prevent heart disease. Read more about the study.

See all 20 of our heart healthy video tips from UMMC experts.

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