Arteries carry blood away from the heart. They are the thickest blood vessels, with muscular walls that contract to keep the blood moving away from the heart and through the body. In the systemic circulation, oxygen-rich blood is pumped from the heart into the aorta. This huge artery curves up and back from the left ventricle, then heads down in front of the spinal column into the abdomen. Two coronary arteries branch off at the beginning of the aorta and divide into a network of smaller arteries that provide oxygen and nourishment to the muscles of the heart.
Keep a healthy weight. Your healthcare provider will probably check your weight and height to learn your BMI (body mass index). A BMI of 25 or higher means you are at greater risk for heart disease as well as diabetes (high blood sugar) and other health conditions. Extra fat around the middle of your body may increase your risk of heart disease. A man’s risk of heart disease is increased if his waist measures more than 40 inches. A woman’s risk is increased at 35 inches. Following a and being physically active might help you.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking adds to the damage to artery walls. It’s never too late to get some benefit from . Quitting, even in later life, can over time, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests you ask your doctor the following questions to learn more about your risk for heart disease and what to do about it. Be sure to ask what you can do if you are told you are at increased risk or already have a heart problem.