Keeping healthy habits

What can I do to maintain a low cardiovascular risk?

Healthy habits protect your heart but maintaining them throughout life can be a challenge. Read on for suggestions on how to monitor your cardiovascular risk and keep it low.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death all over the world, including Europe. Cardiovascular-related deaths have declined in some countries due to preventive measures such as smoking bans.

Healthy behaviours will protect your heart and keep it strong throughout your life. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to make radical lifestyle changes immediately. To create long-lasting habits, start gradually with an easy win and stick with it. Small adjustments can bring significant benefits.


  • What and how much you eat has a big effect on heart health and is one of the best places to start. When eating out, choose healthy options.
  • Allow yourself one less healthy meal a week so you stay motivated and don’t feel like you’re on a diet.
  • Activity reduces risk in many ways. It helps control body weight, blood pressure, blood lipids and sugar, and makes you happier. You don’t have to get super fit. Even a small increase in exercise improves health. If you can build it up, even better! If you feel lazy, ask a friend to join you for a long walk. Try to maintain a good level of exercise.
  • Drink responsibly, in moderation. Alcoholic beverages should be limited to 2 glasses per day (20 g/day of alcohol) for men and 1 glass per day (10 g/day of alcohol) for women. If you don’t drink, don’t start.
  • Never smoke and try to stay away from smoking areas: passive smoking can be dangerous for you and your family. Smoking cessation is the most effective way to reduce the risk of heart and lung disease.
  • Check your body weight regularly. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight has a favourable effect on blood pressure, blood cholesterol and diabetes, and lowers your cardiovascular risk.
    • Both overweight and obesity are linked with a greater likelihood of premature death. Risk is lowest with a body mass index (BMI) of 20 to 25 kg/m2 (in people under 60 years of age). Further weight reduction does not protect against cardiovascular disease.
    • Healthy weight in people over 60 is higher than in the young and middle-aged.
    • Waist circumference should be less than 94 cm in men and less than 80 cm in women.
    • If you are obese, ask a health professional to recommend a weight loss plan that includes diet and physical activity.
    • Losing weight slowly is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Your Doctor/ health care professional can use cardiovascular risk calculators such as SCORE to evaluate your cardiovascular risk and decide on the appropriate course of action.