Pay attention to your numbers, particularly if you have risk factors. High blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes all increase your risk of heart disease, and all can start at an early age. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. If it’s over 120/80, your doctor may want to check it more often. You should also have your cholesterol levels tested with a fasting lipoprotein profile. If it’s high, talk to your doctor about a follow-up plan and ways to bring it down. If all is well, repeat at least every four to six years, or more often based on your physician’s recommendations.
If your body mass index is higher than 25 (23 if you’re Asian American) or you have other diabetes risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes, or a history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or heart disease, get screened for diabetes now.
Get moving. The earlier you make exercise a habit, the more likely you’ll stick with it for the long haul. Exercise strengthens your heart, improves circulation, helps with weight control, and lowers your cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure, says Dr. Gianos. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity—that’s fast walking, jogging, biking, or dancing—at least five days per week, and muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.