When it comes to cardiovascular heart disease whoever said “prevention is the best medicine” was exactly right.  Lifestyle choices like diet, exercise and whether or not to smoke and drink alcohol can have a direct effect on heart health.  While you may think you have already heard all the information about heart disease, here are a few things that your doctor may not have told you.

Blood pressure should be checked once a month, and it is important to occasionally check your blood pressure on both arms, as there could be a blockage in the artery of one arm and not in another.  Regular physical activity is the best way to reduce blood pressure.

An individual is at greater risk for heart disease if they are pre-diabetic.  Therefore, know your blood sugar numbers.  If you are pre-diabetic, get plenty of exercise, and replace high-calorie, sugary carbohydrates with whole grains and vegetables.

Don’t focus on the wrong number when checking cholesterol.  The LDL (bad cholesterol) number should first demand attention.  Eat healthy fats (like fatty fish and olive oil) and foods with a high amount of dietary fiber to reduce this number.

In addition to cholesterol levels, there are other blood tests that may be helpful to an individual at greater risk for heart disease.

• C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced by the liver in response to injury or infection.  The presence of CRP signifies inflammation somewhere in the body which could be an indication of atherosclerosis (or clogged arteries).  Unfortunately, the test can’t tell exactly where the inflammation is in the body.  However, CRP test results, when combined with other factors can help to determine overall heart health.  The American Heart Association only recommends CRP screening for those with a known risk for heart disease.
• As fibrinogen is a protein that helps blood to clot, too much of it in the bloodstream can indicate atherosclerosis, which can contribute to a heart attack or stroke.
• Homocysteine is a substance used by the body to make proteins and produce tissue.  Too much homocysteine however, can raise the risks for stroke and certain types of heart and vascular disease.  Smokers and others with a greater risk for heart disease may want to have homocysteine levels checked.
• B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a protein which helps in the elimination of fluids and relaxation of blood vessels.  BNP levels can rise when the heart is damaged, when there is chest pain or after a heart attack.  A blood test for BNP levels can help in the diagnosis of heart failure or other heart conditions.  However, a high level alone may not necessarily indicate a heart problem – other risk factors and tests will be considered.

While it is important to be aware of blood tests, prevention cannot be stressed highly enough when it comes to fighting heart disease – even for those at risk.  Check out these lifestyle strategies to ensure good heart health.

Don’t Smoke – Pack-a-day smokers experience more than twice the risk of having a heart attack than do nonsmokers, and smoking affects others.  It is estimated that roughly 35,000 nonsmokers annually die from heart disease as a result of second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke.

Be Active – There are numerous studies that have found regular exercise can help reverse problems that lead to atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.  Work gradually to achieve 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, three to four times per week.

Limit Alcohol Consumption – While moderate amounts of alcohol can protect the heart by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing arterial plaque, more than three drinks a day can lead to an enlarged and weakened heart, congestive heart failure, a higher triglyceride level, high blood pressure and stroke.

Eat Well and Control Weight – Maintain a healthy weight with a Mediterranean-style diet which is known for its low incidence of heart disease.  This diet features whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood and healthy fats.  Also to ensure good cardiovascular health, take a daily natural supplement that specifically benefits heart health – these can be found through natural supplement websites.