While it’s true that genetics play a role, it’s often less than people think. Research shows that the great majority of cardiovascular risks can be avoided by adjusting your lifestyle. In fact, taking a few steps is a great way to begin moving toward better health.

Physical activity is part of what we call “Life's Simple 7.” These are the small changes than can have a big impact on improving and extending your life. You’re probably familiar with these recommendations, but seeing them all together — and knowing they are scientifically proven by the American Heart Association — could help them resonate in a new way. After all, the best way to treat cardiovascular diseases is to help people avoid developing them.

1. Stop smoking

Tobacco use is a leading preventable cause of death. If you smoke, stopping will be a gateway to a healthier life.

2. Get active

While the AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for most adults, that may not be realistic right away. So start by setting a reachable goal that best fits your lifestyle and then ratchet your way up to the overall goal.

3. Eat better

A heart-healthy diet will give you more fuel to get moving and will help you lose weight.

4. Lose weight

If you eat better, move more and stop smoking, you’ll marvel at how you look and feel. You’ll actually look forward to stepping on the scale to count how many pounds you’ve shed.

5. Manage blood pressure

Hypertension, more commonly referred to as high blood pressure, has no outward signs, but can do major damage, so it’s vital to know your numbers. A health care provider can help get your BP under control — just like the top three items on this list.

6. Control cholesterol  

Once again, it’s about knowing your numbers, working with your health care provider to control them and following the top three items on this list.

7. Reduce blood sugar

As you can probably guess, it’s still about knowing your numbers, working with your health care provider to control them and following the top three items on this list.