Carla Hay-Perdue, DNP, APRN, FNP, ANP-BC, NC-BC

Community Education Coordinator/ Family Nurse Practitioner at Palo Pinto General Hospital

February 24, 2022

Now is the time to do something about this #1 killer. In the United States, someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 36 seconds. By 2035 it is estimated that 45% of the US population will live with cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and blood vessels). There are programs out there that can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease. What does it take to stop this deadly disease? It takes a willingness to change. An estimated 80% of cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, are preventable!  

How can we prevent cardiovascular disease? Here are some tips.

1. If you smoke, then don’t! No vaping either. The CDC reports cigarettes to contain arsenic, benzene, cadmium, chromium IV, and formaldehyde. All of which are harmful to health. Second-hand smoke also contributes to heart attack deaths.  


2. Exercise! The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. In addition, incorporating moderate to vigorous muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week will add health benefits. Increasing the amount of movement by even just a little will help your heart and health. Palo Pinto General Hospital offers a nice one-of-a-kind walking track available for public use 24/7. Something as simple as walking two laps per day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  

3. Manage stress! We overlook stress. We live in a chronic stress-promoting society. The same chemical reactions that are important in getting out of dangerous situations are now in play all day long. The adrenalin, norepinephrine, and cortisol produced can increase high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Lowering stress is so important in heart health. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, walking, laughing, creating, and playing are all things we can do every day to decrease the effects of stress.  

4. Follow a plant-slanted diet. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eat a rainbow. Each color contains different phytonutrients that keep the heart healthy. Stay away from foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and sugar. If you eat meat, decrease your animal consumption to three ounces of poultry 2 x per week and 3 ounces of fish 2 to 3 times a week and limit eggs to 3 per week. Save red meat for celebration times if you need to eat it. 

5. Get at least 7 hours of good quality sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep or having poor sleep quality is associated with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. Habitual short sleep increases the chance of cardiovascular events. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Sleep in a dark, quiet place with a comfortable temperature. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bedtime. Exercise during the day. It will make it easier to fall asleep at night. Talk with your health care professional if you have symptoms of a sleep disorder.  

6. Love, social support, and intimacy are essential. People who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are more likely to get sick and die prematurely compared to people who have strong feelings of love, connection, purpose, and community. Develop meaningful relationships.


Awareness is the first step in stopping this Number 1 Killer. Simple lifestyle changes can have powerful results. For example, research by Dr. Dean Ornish shows that a whole food plant-based diet, exercise, not smoking, stress management, and good social support decrease the incidence of heart disease. It even improves heart function. So his motto is to Eat Well, Move More, Stress Less, and Love More. What an excellent way to improve our health and decrease our risk. 



American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. Retrieved from The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations | American Heart Association

Ornish, Dean (2019) UnDo It! How simple lifestyle changes can reverse most chronic diseases. Random House Publishing. New York.