Sometimes, the saddest thing about heart-related deaths is not the fatality of the diseases themselves but the fact that most of them could have been averted with a change of lifestyle.

TIME reports that a great percentage of these cases could be traced to factors that can be controlled, such as physical activity, diet, and lifestyle habits, which include smoking and drinking. In fact, Dr. Thomas Freiden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that 200,000 deaths caused by cardiovascular issues have been associated with such factors.

In spite of the increased awareness, rates of preventable deaths still remain high because many individuals get too little exercise. In the US, approximately 80 percent of Americans do not get the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise a week, resulting in 70 percent of the adult population being overweight or obese. One in three of this segment has also been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

These numbers point out one important message–that you are responsible for your own well-being. The choice of living a full life or dying young is partially in your hands, so why not choose to be healthy and happy? It only takes a few minutes a day to get ample exercise and a bit of self-control to eat healthy. Although addictions such as smoking and drinking are harder to break, persistence can turn even the worst habits around.

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(Photo by David M. Goehring via Flickr Creative Commons)

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