Health / Health conditions

6 Ways to Care for Your Heart

Grandmother, mother, and little girl smiling

For most of us, heart disease is personal. We have family members and friends who have suffered a heart attack or stroke—or it may be part of our own health history. And every year in the United States, heart disease and stroke claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.1 

While heart disease is common, there is a lot we can do to lower our risk and help save lives. Here’s what you can do to protect your heart and the hearts of those around you—and how your BCBSRI benefits can help.

1. Schedule your $0 yearly checkup with your provider.
This yearly visit—covered at no cost when you see a provider in your BCBSRI health plan network—is a good time to talk with your provider about how to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Your provider may recommend lifestyle changes such as being more active or making changes to what you eat. They may also suggest taking medication. Experts recommend that some people ages 40 to 75 take medicines called statins if they’re at high risk for heart attack and stroke.2 If your provider does recommend medication, be sure to take it as directed, and don't stop the medication without first talking to your provider. 

2. Know your numbers (cholesterol and blood pressure).
High blood pressure and high cholesterol often have no symptoms, but both can raise your risk for heart disease and stroke. When you see your provider, ask how often you should get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Here’s what to know:

  • A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg.3 Starting at age 18, the U.S Department of Health & Human Services recommends getting your blood pressure checked regularly.2 Your provider may even suggest using self-measured blood pressure monitors at home.
  • For adults and children, high cholesterol is having a total cholesterol above 200 mg/dL.4 Providers may recommend statins to lower cholesterol if your cholesterol is 190 mg/dL.5 It’s important to get your cholesterol checked at least every five years. Some people will need to get it checked more often. 

3. Ask for support with heart-healthy changes.
Most of us know what we need to do to lower our risk of heart disease—eat healthy, be more active, quit smoking, drink alcohol only in moderation, and manage stress. Making and maintaining those changes is easier when you have help. That could be taking walks with a friend, planning healthy meals with your spouse, or asking your provider for resources. 

You can also get help at no additional cost through the BCBSRI Care Management program.6 A nurse, dietitian, or other healthcare professional can help you make healthy changes to lower your risk of heart disease or manage heart disease if you already have it. You can meet with a Care Manager by phone, via video, or in person at a Your Blue StoreSM location. To get started, please call 1-844-563-0892 or email (See the end of the article for more resources available with your BCBSRI plan.)

4. Be familiar with the signs of a heart attack. 
A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is suddenly blocked. Part of the heart may die if the person doesn’t get help quickly. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists common signs and symptoms of a heart attack as: 

  • Pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest—or a feeling of pressure, squeezing, or fullness 
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper body—like the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper stomach (above the belly button) 
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing (while resting or being active) 
  • Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up 
  • Stomachache or feeling like you have heartburn  
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or unusually tired 
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat 

Not everyone who has a heart attack will have all the signs or symptoms. Symptoms of a heart attack often come on suddenly, but sometimes, they develop hours, days, or even weeks before a heart attack happens. Talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired for several days, or if you develop any new health problems (like pain or trouble breathing). It's also important to talk to your doctor if existing health issues (like pain) are bothering you more than usual. 

5. Call 911 right away if you or someone else has signs of a heart attack.
Don’t ignore any signs or feel embarrassed to call for help. Acting fast can save a life—so call 911 even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack. An ambulance is the best and safest way to get to the hospital. In an ambulance, emergency medical technicians (EMT) can keep track of how you’re doing and start life-saving treatments right away. 

People who call an ambulance often get treated faster at the hospital. And when you call 911, the operator can tell you what to do until the ambulance gets there. 

6. Be trained in hands-only CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). 
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. Nine out of 10 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die—often within minutes.7 Learn more about CPR and AED use, including how to sign up for an in-person class, on the American Heart Association website

Make it easier by using your perks

Your BCBSRI health plan comes with perks that can help you stay heart-healthy.

  • Take free classes at Your Blue StoreSM.
    At our five store locations, BCBSRI members can take free fitness classes as well as educational classes on taking care of your health. Sign up for a class at You can also visit the BCBSRI Facebook page to find videos of the classes that you can do at home.8
  • Use your wellness app at no cost.
    If your BCBSRI health plan includes our wellness program, powered by Virgin Pulse®9, you can earn points and get motivated with healthy team challenges, customized nutrition tools, and trackers for activity, weight, sleep, and mood. To get started, sign up at or download the Virgin Pulse app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.10 Choose Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island as your sponsor, then connect your Fitbit® or other wearable device to track and sync steps with the app.
  • Get member-only discounts on healthy living.
    Want to join a gym? Buy a fitness tracker or equipment? Or subscribe to a meal service? Get great discounts on 45+ top national retailers at Blue365.11

12023-Statistics-At-A-Glance-final_1_17_23.pdf (
2Keep Your Heart Healthy - MyHealthfinder |
32017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines
42018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the Management of Blood Cholesterol: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines | Circulation (
5Statins Effective for LDL 190 mg per dL or Higher, Regardless of Risk Level | AAFP
6Care Management is not available for Plan 65 members.
7Cardiac Arrest - What Is Cardiac Arrest? | NHLBI, NIH
8Not all exercises are suitable for everyone and any exercise program could result in injury. Always consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have an existing health condition.
9Virgin Pulse® is an independent wellness company, contracted by BCBSRI to provide wellness services. Virgin Pulse is available to BCBSRI subscribers (the primary person on the BCBSRI health plan) and their enrolled spouses. Not all employers offer Virgin Pulse through their plan. Standard mobile phone carrier and data usage charges apply. The downloading and use of the Virgin Pulse mobile app is subject to the terms and conditions of the app and the online stores from which it is downloaded.
10Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc. Virgin Pulse is an independent wellness company, contracted by BCBSRI to provide wellness services.
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