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Heart health involves taking the proper lifestyle (and sometimes medical) steps to avoid coronary (artery) heart disease and high blood pressure (hypertension). These two conditions are often the underlying causes of several other heart-related conditions.

Heart disease is the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries. Plaque is made of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood). The buildup of plaque may partially or totally block the blood’s flow through an artery in the heart, brain, or other part of the body, causing a heart attack or a stroke.

Plaque begins to form when the inner lining of an artery becomes damaged. Possible causes of damage to the arterial wall include elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, high blood pressure, and smoking cigarettes – which greatly aggravates the arteries. As the artery narrows, blood flow is reduced, which decreases the body’s – and the heart’s – oxygen supply.

The good news is, living a healthy lifestyle can be the largest contributor to avoiding coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. A lifestyle that incorporates good nutrition, weight management, and getting plenty of physical activity are the best things you can do.