Lessen Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Marianne Sherman, MA, CVRN-BC is a cardiac rehabilitation clinician for Inova Heart and Vascular Institute at Inova Loudoun and Inova Fairfax Hospitals. She has more than 25 years of experience including unit management, the development of individualized treatment plans for patients with diverse cardiac diagnoses, exercise prescription, and patient education to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

closeup of coffee table with sodas, chips, and fried foods on top

Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the Unites States; attributing for one out of every three deaths (Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2018 update: a report from the American Heart Association).

If you could reduce your chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease by changing some of the choices you make, would you choose to change them?

Every day, we choose how active we will be and the foods we eat. When we choose healthy activity and eating patterns, our blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body weight and cardiovascular system are healthier. In turn, our risk for developing cardiovascular disease lessens.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include:

  • A sedentary lifestyle and/or one without regular cardiovascular exercise
  • A blood pressure greater than 120/80
  • An eating pattern of processed foods, fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • A waist measurement of > 40 inches (men), and > 35 inches (women). To measure your waist, place a tape measure around your abdomen slightly above your hip bone and measure the circumference.  Note: this is not your pant size.
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking

How can I help my heart health?

Below is a list of daily opportunities for you to improve your heart health and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Some of these suggestions may take a little more effort than others, but they may save your life:

Increase your activity. Look for ways to move and walk more frequently. Additionally, work up to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 days a week; walking is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. See More: CardioSmart – Active living tips & infographic

Take a deep breath. Take 5 – 10 minutes daily to reduce stress and to focus on relaxation or deep breathing exercises. See more: CardioSmart: Stress reduction tips

You are what you eat. Choose a healthy eating pattern most days and avoid processed foods. Your diet should consist mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes including peas, beans, certain nuts, fish and olive oil. See more: Eat better – News articles, metabolic syndrome info and diet recommendations

Avoid smoking. See more: Test your smoking triggers, get support and tips

Consider cardiac rehab!

Watch Patricia’s Story – Surviving and Thriving After a Heart Attack


If you already have heart disease, consider participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program.  This could reduce your risk for additional heart problems by as much as 25 percent. Learn about Inova’s Cardiac Rehabilitation services

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