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Prevention - Coronary heart disease

There are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), such as lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (5 portions a day) and whole grains.

You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure. 6g of salt is about 1 teaspoonful.

There are 2 types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. You should avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods that contain coconut or palm oil

However, a balanced diet should still include unsaturated fats, which have been shown to increase levels of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries.

Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • oily fish
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils

You should also try to avoid too much sugar in your diet, as this can increase your chances of developing diabetes, which is proven to significantly increase your chances of developing CHD.

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Be more physically active

Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure.

Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Exercising regularly reduces your risk of having a heart attack. The heart is a muscle and, like any other muscle, benefits from exercise. A strong heart can pump more blood around your body with less effort.

Any aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and dancing, makes your heart work harder and keeps it healthy.

Read more about fitness and exercise.

Keep to a healthy weight

A GP or practice nurse can tell you what your ideal weight is in relation to your height and build. Alternatively, find out what your body mass index (BMI) is by using our BMI calculator.

Read more about losing weight.

Give up smoking

If you smoke, giving up will reduce your risk of developing CHD.

Smoking is a major risk factor for developing atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries). It also causes the majority of cases of coronary thrombosis in people under the age of 50.

Research has shown you're up to 3 times more likely to successfully give up smoking if you use NHS support together with stop-smoking medicines, such as patches or gum.

Ask a doctor about this or visit NHS Smokefree.

Read more about stopping smoking.

Reduce your alcohol consumption

If you drink, do not exceed the maximum recommended limits.

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Always avoid binge drinking, as this increases the risk of a heart attack.

Read more about drinking and alcohol.

Keep your blood pressure under control

You can keep your blood pressure under control by eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, exercising regularly and, if needed, taking medicine to lower your blood pressure.

Your target blood pressure should be below 140/90mmHg. If you have high blood pressure, ask a GP to check your blood pressure regularly.

Read more about high blood pressure.

Keep your diabetes under control

You have a greater chance of developing CHD if you have diabetes. Being physically active and controlling your weight and blood pressure will help manage your blood sugar level.

If you have diabetes, your target blood pressure level should be below 130/80mmHg.

Read more about diabetes.

Take any prescribed medicine

If you have CHD, you may be prescribed medicine to help relieve your symptoms and stop further problems developing.

If you do not have CHD but have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a history of family heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent you developing heart-related problems.

If you're prescribed medicine, it's vital you take it and follow the correct dosage. Do not stop taking your medicine without consulting a doctor first, as doing so is likely to make your symptoms worse and put your health at risk.

Page last reviewed: 10 March 2020
Next review due: 10 March 2023