15 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of a Heart Attack
Implement lifestyle modifications and ensure you can never fall prey to heart diseases.
Matters of the heart
The prime reason for heart problems is the narrowing of arteries that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Called Coronary Artery Disease or CAD, atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol-rich fatty deposits build up on the inner walls of the arteries. These deposits, also known as plaques, narrow the coronary arteries over time and restrict blood flow to the heart and can result in arterial spasms. Smoking, intense emotional stress or exposure to extreme cold temperatures can also constrict coronary arteries suddenly and cause such spasms.
Be heart healthy
Simple and consistent efforts on your part through lifestyle modifications can keep heart diseases at bay. It is also important to understand the risk factors that may lead to cardiovascular disease or CVD.
- Stop smoking
Smoking is a major cause of CVD. The risk of CVD reduces within months of cessation of smoking and reaches the level of people who have never smoked for 3 to 5 years. Exposure to smoking or second-hand smoke is a risk factor too.
- Monitor your cholesterol levels
Coronary heart disease is speeded up by high blood cholesterol levels because it is this cholesterol that attaches itself to the arterial walls to form plaque. Your cholesterol level should be 200mg/dL with LDL (bad) cholesterol below 130 mg/dL and HDL (good) cholesterol above 35 mg/dL.
- Aim for a healthy weight
Obesity, especially when coupled with belly fat and a sedentary lifestyle with no physical activity, is a sure-fire way of inviting heart trouble. Take up regular physical exercise, be on the move and stop gorging on high-fat foods. Check your weight often and keep it closer to your ideal body weight for your age, gender and height.
- Count your calories
When you start diet modifications, start with counting your calorie intake, which should be nearer to the calorie intake necessary for your age, gender and physical activity level. Portion control is the first step towards calorie reduction. The nature of food taken is the next step. Reduce foods high in sugar and fats.
- Adopt regular physical activity
Moderate to intense activity like brisk walking helps in reducing the risk of CVD. The recommended guideline is 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity for 5 to 6 days a week. Studies show that walking two miles a day, even if not continuously, is optimal for good health. Exercises helps in burning calories and activation of genes that benefit health. They also help release feel-good hormones that improve mental health and faculties.
- Eat healthy
Adopt a diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber. Science says that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and those rich in vitamin C, protect against CVD. Highly recommended are a vegetarian diet or a Mediterranean diet that uses olive oil. Trans fats lead to adverse lipid profiles, which are known risks for CVD. Avoid deep-fried foods, margarine, hydrogenated vegetables and trans fats in all forms.
- Drink in moderation
Cutting down on alcohol intake reduces the risk of CVD. In women, alcohol raises blood pressure and enhances the risk of breast cancer.
- Hormonal changes in women
Early menopause in women due to surgery pushes up the risk of CVD. Such women need to make immediate lifestyle modifications to keep CVD away.
- Include risk-reducing vitamins
Including risk-reducing antioxidant vitamins naturally through super foods, vegetables and fruits, or as supplements, helps in reducing the risk of CVD. Vitamin E and homocysteine-lowering agents like folate and B6 help in reducing the risk of heart ailments.
- Manage stress effectively
Stress has an adverse effect on lipid levels in the blood. Hostility, anger, cynicism, bearing grudges and bitterness have a high link to cardiac events. Relaxation methods like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and stress management techniques reduce stress and lead to better heart health. Meditation is known to improve cholesterol levels and reverses carotid artery thickening, improves exercise tolerance and reduces electric changes of the heart due to poor circulation.
- Age and genetics
The older you are, the greater your risk. If you have parents or grandparents who died of heart disease, diabetes or stroke, your risk for CVD is higher.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
High blood pressure impacts the inner lining of blood vessels and is known as a silent killer. A pressure above 120/80 mgHg should alert you. Every 10mmHG increase in systolic (the larger number) and 5mmHg in the diastolic (the smaller number) pressure doubles your risk. Monitor your blood pressure levels regularly at your GP’s or at home.
- Control diabetes
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels for long periods of time leads to CVD and several life-threatening health conditions. If you are diabetic, take your medicines regularly, monitor your sugar levels, maintain a strict diet and exercise regularly.
- Go for regular medical check-ups
To keep a check on your sugar levels, BP, cholesterol, triglycerides and lipid levels, go for routine tests annually, especially if you are over 50, and for women after menopause. High levels of the above along with a family history and sedentary lifestyle may necessitate medication to correct the condition. Incorporate lifestyle modifications on a war-footing if any of these show high levels.
- It’s a question of attitude
Happy and people-friendly individuals have shown lesser risk of heart ailments. Surround yourself with family and friends, strive for a good marriage, take up social causes or spiritual pursuits, include humor as a part of your life, moderate TV watching or too much time on social media, take interest in performing arts, music, theatre or fine arts so that you go out and attend events instead of watching on the television, listen to music, cultivate relaxing hobbies such as gardening, bring up pets and involve yourself in indoor or outdoor team games. Avoid situations or people who are negative and develop equanimity through practice as well as meditation. Above all, stay informed about health-related issues and advancements.
Your health is in your hands, especially your heart health. Open up your heart and revel in love, optimum health and peace!