Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, more than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. Risk factors can be hereditary, but other factors are related to your habits and lifestyle — things you can control and change to minimize your risk of developing heart disease. Dr. Ruth Tiffault, a Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine and women’s health physician, explains steps you can take to help prevent heart disease.

  • Stop smoking. If you smoke, you are two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a nonsmoking woman.
  • Control your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and if it’s too high, work with your health care provider to lower it and keep it under control.
  • Lower your cholesterol. One-fourth of American women have high cholesterol. Have yours checked and follow your health care provider’s advice for keeping it low.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Your health care provider can advise you on a weight range that’s healthy for you.
  • Get moving. Studies show that 60 percent of American women don’t get the exercise they should, and 25 percent are completely inactive. Thirty minutes of moderate movement most or all days of the week is all it takes.
  • Control diabetes. The risk of death from heart disease is about three times higher in women with diabetes. Consult your health care provider if you have a family history of diabetes or if you have other risk factors associated with diabetes.