Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Its victims are women and men, and people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, in all regions of the country. Although heart disease is the nation's most costly and widespread health problem, it is among the most preventable.

The most common heart disease in the United States is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Coronary Artery Disease is the #1 killer in America, affecting more than 13 million Americans.

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Coronary arteries are blood vessels of the heart. Healthy coronary arteries are smooth and elastic, allowing blood to flow freely. As we get older, fat can start to deposit in the blood vessel walls and begin to build up, causing injury to the vessel. Over time, the process of injury and repair can cause plaque development in the interior calls of the arteries, compromising oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle, which can lead to a number of conditions that affect your heart or increase your risk of death or disability.

Control What You Can:  Lifestyle changes are the best defense against heart disease.

Although there are a few factors that can't be controlled, including age, gender and family history, you can prevent and control many heart disease factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity with lifestyle changes and in some cases, medicine.

According to the National Institute of Health, the best way to reduce your chances of getting heart disease is by changing your key risk factors in your lifestyle. Medication obviously plays a key role in preventing and treating heart disease, but a wealth of research has shown the surprising success that simple lifestyle changes can make in helping along that effort. These include:

Following a Healthy Diet: This means more than just cutting back on fat. Studies have shown that a diet high in produce, whole grains, nuts, legumes and fish, reduced artery damaging inflammation better that the standard low-fat diet. Many people also find this type of diet more filling, palatable and attainable that just cutting back on fat.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Excess fat, especially around the belly, strains the heart, raises blood pressure, LDL and triglycerides, lowers HDL, causes insulin resistance, and produces substances in the blood that can inflame the arteries. By lowering your body weight by as little as 5 percent, you can lower your heart disease risk drastically.

Exercising Regularly: Regular aerobic exercise protects against every major cardiac risk factor. It improves both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure, lowers the risk of type-2 diabetes, controls body weight, eases stress and depression, and may reduce arterial inflammation.

Managing Stress: Stress and negative emotions unleash hormones in your body that trigger heart-threatening changes. Anger and stress, for example, speed up the heart, raise blood pressure, narrow and inflame arteries, provoke abnormal heart rhythms and make blood prone to clotting. Regular aerobic exercise is an effective antidote for stress. Other methods include yoga, tai chi, meditation, and controlled breathing exercises.

Quitting Smoking: Cigarette smokers have more than double the heart disease risk of non-smokers. Fortunately, the risk starts to drop as soon as you quite.

To learn more about what you can do to lower your risk of heart disease, join us for a FREE educational seminar on Heart Disease Prevention Awareness, featuring Dr. Tobi Ippolito, MD, Board Certified Internist in Chatham, NJ on Wednesday, February 16th from 6PM to 7PM at Liberty Drug.