Cardiovascular disease afflicts millions worldwide and is often caused by arteriosclerosis, a buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. Hardened arteries can block blood vessels leading to and from the heart. This causes heart attack and stroke. According to Harvard Medical School, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women but it doesn’t need to be. If you suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity or diabetes you are particularly at risk. You can prevent heart disease by making thoughtful and responsible lifestyle choices. Here are five ways to improve your heart health:

Physical activity
Physical inactivity drastically increases your odds of developing heart disease. You should exercise daily to decrease your risk. You can stay active by partaking in simple activities such as hiking, dancing, yard work and stretching. But to see and feel remarkable changes, you should engage in vigorous physical activities like running, swimming, weight lifting and basketball. Exercise decreases stress levels and keeps you looking good.

Sleep
With our hectic schedules, it is often difficult to get a full night’s sleep. But it is absolutely crucial to maintaining overall health. Our bodies need about eight hours of sleep every night. When we are sleep deprived we don’t look as attractive, function as capably or feel as well. Experts note that if you don’t get enough sleep, unnecessary calcium can buildup in your arteries, leading to heart disease.

Avoid smoking
Considering all we know about the health hazards of cigarette smoke, it is surprising that many people still do so. Smoking leads to respiratory problems and lung disease. It is also a leading cause of heart disease. Clearly, smoking is extremely addictive but there are organizations dedicated to helping others quit that offer companionship and inspiration.

Avoid bad food
The old adage “everything in moderation” does not apply to heart disease. According to experts at Harvard Medical School, you want to stock up on the right foods and avoid the harmful ones. Cut saturated fats from your diet. Even if a food is low in cholesterol, if it is high in saturated fats, avoid it. Fried chicken, sausage and steak can cause heart disease. If you can minimize these foods in your diet, you would be well advised to do so and eat healthier alternatives.

Eat nutritious food
Blueberries are low in calories, rich in nutrients and capable of reducing blood pressure. Oatmeal, yogurt, red tart cherries and eggs also work wonders.