Newswise — With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's a great time to take a look at the state of your heart.

"Despite recent progress, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disability for both men and women in the United States," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, UCLA's Eliot Corday Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Science, professor of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and director of the Ahmanson"UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center. "However, heart disease can be almost entirely prevented with a healthy lifestyle and excellent control of cardiovascular risk factors."

"The path to heart disease begins at an early age," said Dr. Thomas Klitzner, professor of pediatric cardiology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. "Obesity and high blood pressure are becoming an epidemic in children and young adults. By exercising regularly, eating well and not smoking, children can form heart-healthy habits that will help protect them from future heart attacks and strokes."

Adults: 10 Tips for a Healthy Heart

1. Don't smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking markedly increases the risk of heart attacks and heart failure. Quitting smoking rapidly reduces your cardiovascular risk.

2. Exercise. New recommendations are to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes daily. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and keeps your heart strong and disease-free.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and diabetes. A healthy diet and exercise program is the best way to maintain a normal weight.

4. Get your cholesterol levels checked. High cholesterol does not cause any symptoms until it is too late. The only way to know if you have a healthy cholesterol level is to get it checked. If you have not had your levels checked in the past year or two, get them checked now.

5. Maintain a healthy cholesterol level. The ideal level for your LDL ("bad" cholesterol) is less than 100. Certain individuals need to achieve even lower LDL cholesterol levels. Keeping your HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels up is also important. Know your lipid levels and talk to your physician about the best plan of action to keep your cholesterol levels ideal.

6. Get your blood pressure checked. Many patients with hypertension are not aware that they have this condition. There are very well-tolerated and effective treatments for high blood pressure.

7. Maintain a normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Your systolic blood pressure should be below 140 and your diastolic blood pressure below 90. Certain individuals need to achieve even tighter control of their blood pressure.

8. Take your medications as recommended by your physician. Many patients stop taking their prescribed medications without discussing this with their physicians. Studies show that individuals who stop their cardiovascular medications are at much higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and reduced survival, compared with those who adhere to their medical regimen.

9. Take omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that getting one gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, or taking supplements such as fish oil capsules, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

10. See your doctor. Regular medical follow-up is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy and avoid problems down the road.

Children and Adolescents: Seven Tips for a Healthy Heart

1. Watch no more than one hour of television a day. (This includes non-schoolwork-related computer activities, video games and Game Boy-type activities.)

2. Make a point of getting outside and moving around for at least 30 minutes every day.

3. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. 4. Avoid fast food and fried food, and eat in moderation.

5. Don't smoke.

6. See your pediatrician for all regularly scheduled visits.

7. Report unusual feelings, such as a racing heart or feeling faint, to an adult.