Heart attacks are life-threatening and are in fact, the number one killer in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 17.5 million people died because of cardiovascular disease in 2012. Three out of four of the deaths occurred in low income countries as well as those with middle income.

But there’s good news: about 80% of heart attacks and even strokes can be prevented. Five lifestyle changes are effective in protecting yourself against heart disease namely:

1. Eat a heart-healthy diet.

Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t avoid saturated fats, which you can find in butter and eggs. Instead, you should stay away from:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as in bread and bagels
  • Processed foods
  • Sugar

Eat the right foods that are good for your heart, have plenty of veggies, eat high-quality protein, and consume healthy fats which are saturated and monounsaturated fats.

2. Be physically active.

Heart Disease VectorYou don’t have to have a gym membership to be considered healthy. Just by walking or biking at least 40 minutes every day and exercising at least one hour per week can guarantee you a healthy heart. You can start small, such as by simply taking the stairs rather than the elevator and parking your car at the farthest part of the parking lot, so you get that extra walk.

3. Have a healthy waist circumference.

This means that you should have 95 cm maximum, equivalent to 37.4 inches of waist circumference to remain healthy. Being overweight and obese are risk factors for heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases. Make sure you don’t have high BMI to avoid type 2 diabetes as well.

4. Consume alcohol moderately.

Alcohol, particularly red wine, is not truly the heart’s enemy. However, you should keep your consumption to 10 to 30 grams per day. In fact, drinking alcohol can increase your blood pressure levels and this can contribute to heart disease.

5. Don’t smoke.

Kick that habit now, especially if you choose tobacco, which is very harmful to health. Additionally, secondhand smoke is as dangerous, if not more. Stay away from tobacco and those who smoke as these can increase your risk of heart attack and even stroke. Studies have shown that stopping smoking for half a year can drop your risk immediately.

In addition to the five lifestyle changes mentioned above, make sure you also optimize your vitamin D levels, aim for three hours a day of sitting, and avoid all types of sugar especially if you are high at risk of diabetes.