Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, and that is a good enough reason for anyone to keep their heart fit and healthy.
There are many ways you can reduce the risk of heart disease or manage your heart health. We show you 6 things you can start doing today to reduce your risk of suffering from heart disease.
1. Stop Smoking
Tobacco use is a big risk factor, perhaps one of the biggest contributors to getting cardiovascular disease. Chemicals present in tobacco have a strong damaging effect on the heart as well as the blood vessels, and can cause atherosclerosis, a condition marked by narrowing the arteries. Atherosclerosis, in turn, can result in a cardiovascular attack.
Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which replaces the amount of oxygen present in the blood. As a result, both the heart rate and blood pressure increases, and the heart has to work harder to pump enough oxygen to our body.
Smoking and heart disease prevention do not go hand in hand, irrespective of how little you smoke. On the other hand, even if you do not smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke , then too you are at an increased risk to heart disease.
The encouraging news, however, is that the risk of heart disease becomes almost normal within 5 years of you leaving smoking. In short, your health can immediately improves from the moment you shun cigarettes.
2. Eat A Diet Rich In Protein, Vegetables, Fruits And Whole Grains
Eating a healthy diet helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. One heart healthy diet is the Mediterranean eating plan. Another food plan that helps improve heart health is the DASH, which stands for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
One of the features of a heart-healthy diet is inclusion of sufficient amounts of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. (Note: If you’ve diabetes, certain fruits may not be recommended for you so do factor in the doctor’s advice for diabetes too.) You should also increase your intake of beans. In addition, consume more low-fat foods rich in protein. Certain fishes, including lake trout, salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna, are all known to be good for your heart.
3. Avoid Trans Fats
You should avoid consumption of trans fats and saturated fat, both of which can increase the risk of heart disease significantly. Of the two, trans fats is the more harmful fat you should definitely avoid.
Consuming a limited amount of saturated fat should not be detrimental to your heart health, though you will want to ensure you avoid them if a healthier option exists whenever possible.
Some foods that are rich in saturated fats and so should be avoided or consumed in smaller quantities are:
• Dairy products
• Palm oil
• Coconut oil
• Red meat
Foods that are rich in trans fats and so should be avoided are:
• Bakery products
• Fast foods (especially food that is deep-fried)
• Packaged foods
Stay away from foods with a nutrition label showing ‘partially hydrogenated’, as that means they contain trans fats.
Eating a heart healthy diet does not mean shunning fats completely. Instead, it means eating fats that are healthy. Fats derived from a plant-based source, like olives, nuts, and avocados are good for the heart as they help bring down bad cholesterol count.
You should add more vegetables and fruits to your diet. Experts recommend up to 5 to 10 servings daily. Apart from this, switching to a heart-healthy diet will also help if you are diabetic, so your diabetes condition can potentially improve.
4. Watch Your Weight
The general rule is that the more overweight you are, the greater your risk to heart disease. Excess fat, especially around the abdominal area is a sign that you may be more susceptible to getting heart disease than fats that accumulate around the hips and thighs. Excess weight is also linked with other major illness like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The BMI is a reasonably accurate marker of the risk to heart disease. People who have a BMI score of 25 or more are at increased risk to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and consequently, heart attack and stroke.
The BMI however, is not a perfect marker. Muscular men and women can have a higher BMI but may not have a higher risk to heart disease, since it is higher-than-normal fat mass and not muscle mass that is the health hazard. Therefore, waist circumference in conjunction with BMI is a more accurate marker.
Waist circumference, as the name suggests, measures the amount of fat around the belly region.
• Men with waist size of more than 40 inches are regarded overweight
• Women with waist size of more than 35 inches are regarded overweight
In general, weight loss reduces your risk to heart disease and a host of other health conditions. Even a reduction of 5 to 10 percent can reduce your sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure significantly, three main risk factors of heart disease.
A healthy diet can help you to lose weight. The effect of it will be more pronounced if you also exercise regularly. In fact, regular exercise of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise three times a week, is recommended for everyone irrespective of their weight.
5. Limit Alcohol Consumption
High alcohol consumption will negate the positive effect of a heart-healthy diet. This is why you must keep a tab on how much you drink. Women, irrespective of their age, should limit their daily intake to one drink, and this also applies to men above 65 years of age
6. Get Enough Sleep
Sleeping fewer hours than recommended can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, and diabetes. A majority of adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep. One way to judge if you are getting adequate sleep is by taking note of how you wake up. If you feel refreshed on waking up, are having sufficient sleep. However, if you are constantly hitting the snooze button, is definitely a sign that you indeed need more sleep.