Keeping your heart healthy
While heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate.
You may not be able to change some risk factors, including family history, gender, or age, but there are several measures you can take to avoid heart problems in the future.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa defines cardio vascular disease (CVD) as any disease associated with the heart and blood vessels. The most common ones are stroke, heart attack, and heart failure, as well as diseases that affect the heart muscles. Heart disease caused by high blood pressure is also high on the list.
According to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com), the following 5 health tips will assist in the prevention of heart disease:
- Don’t smoke
Smoking is one of the leading factors in heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries, which could lead to a heart attack. The good news is that, when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year.
- Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week
Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. Physical activity helps control your weight, and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It also reduces stress. Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet
Following an eating plan that is low in fat, cholesterol and salt, and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products can help protect your heart. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease your risk of heart attack, protect against an irregular heartbeat, and lower blood pressure.
Saturated fat and trans-fats increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. Major sources of saturated fat include red meat, dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. Sources of trans-fats include deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, and packaged snack foods.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level, and reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Get regular health screenings
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels, and, without testing, you probably won’t know that you have these conditions.
Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years and your cholesterol measured at least every five years. You may need more frequent checks if your numbers aren’t ideal or if you have other risk factors for heart disease.
Since diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease, it is important to be screened for diabetes. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend first testing you for diabetes sometime between ages 30 and 45, and then retesting every three to five years.