1. Go for a heart-healthy diet
Experts have concluded that people who follow the right food habits have more than 30% lower risk of heart disease. What is the most-recommended heart-healthy diet?
- Taking a low-calorie but nutrient-rich food is important.
- Avoid foods like cakes, biscuits, sausages, pudding, butter, red meat, cheese, fatty dairy products, pasta, bacon, etc. These have high saturated content.
- Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy products, and nuts in your diet.
- Include low-fat proteins like yogurt, legumes, skinned poultry, and soy products.
- Reduce the intake of salt. Limit or avoid canned soups, ketchup, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, soy sauce, etc.
- How much you eat is as important as what you eat. So, control the portion size of the food you eat.
Based on the above recommendations, plan daily menus to make sure that you have a well-balanced diet.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercising regularly is one of the major steps to avoid heart attack and keep your heart healthy. It is recommended to be physically active to avoid heart ailments.There are three types of exercises that are very effective in preventing cardiac conditions:.
- Aerobic exercises like running, cycling, brisk walking, swimming, and skipping help to increase the blood circulation. Exercising also helps to lower the blood pressure and decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Resistance training like dumbbells, pushups, resistance bands,, and other such exercises help reduce the LDL also known as “bad cholesterol”. It also reduces body fat, one of the major culprits of heart disease.
- Body-stretching exercises like yoga and Tai-Chi not only lay a good muscular and skeletal foundation, but also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Although these three physical activities are highly recommended, you can do any physical activity that you like. It could be dancing, jogging or playing a favourite sport like tennis and football. Regular physical activity will surely reduce the chances of heart disease. They are the best tools for cardiovascular disease prevention.
3. Live a tobacco-free life
Tobacco control is one of the key elements in preventing heart disease. This is because tobacco increases the risk of heart attack by
- Damaging lungs
- Clogging arteries
- Increasing blood clots,
- Weakening your immunity
- Increasing inflammation
Moreover, carbon monoxide that enters your bloodstream decreases the oxygen supply to all organs and tissues. It also narrows the blood vessels and increases the blood pressure and heart rate. As a result, your heart is forced to pump blood faster than usual.
What happens when you quit smoking?
Research has proven that your blood pressure decreases in a day, and blood circulation improves in a couple of weeks after you stop smoking. In a few months, your cough will disappear. In a year, the risk of heart disease reduces by 50%.
Live a tobacco-free life to keep your heart healthy.
4. Limit alcohol consumption
Several studies have shown that people who took less than two drinks daily had a 20% less risk of heart disease. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of:
- Elevated Blood pressure
- Irregular heart rhythm
- A disorder in the heart muscle called cardiomyopathy
- Heart failure
Moderate drinking (two drinks for men and one for women) will decrease the risk of heart disease. Limit consumption of alcohol to lower the risk of heart disease.
5. Reduce stress
Stress leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can increase the blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, inflammation, bad cholesterol, and decrease the blood flow to the heart muscles. All these are common risk factors that trigger heart diseases. So you should reduce stress by:
- Exercising regularly
- Following relaxing strategies like yoga and meditation
- Having a hobby that can relax you
- Being positive
- Spending time with family and friends
Enjoy a stress-free life as it is a precaution against a heart attack.
6. Keep your blood pressure under control
Excessive blood pressure narrows the arteries supplying blood to the heart due to the build-up of cholesterol and fat. The hardening of arteries leads to the formation of blood clots. This results in an interruption in the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscles, and ultimately causes a heart attack. So, it is important to keep your blood pressure under control. To control blood pressure, you have to
- Sleep well
- Avoid stress
- Be physically active
- Reduce sodium intake and
- Drink less alcohol.
7. Keep diabetes under control
How does diabetes increase the risk of heart disease?
- It damages the cardiovascular nerves and blood vessels.
- High sugar levels can also damage your arterial walls.
- The risk of formation of plaque in the blood vessels is high.
- It can also increase triglycerides.
In cases of known diabetics, it is recommended to get the blood glucose (fasting and postprandial) as well as the HbA1c levels tested at periodic intervals.
It is also recommended to test the cholesterol and triglyceride levels regularly as they are closely linked with diabetes.
How to keep diabetes under control?
- Be active.
- Follow the right meal plan.
- Check blood sugar levels as directed by the physician.
- Take the prescribed medications.
People in the prediabetes range are also at risk for heart diseases. Hence, they should also follow the necessary precautions.
It is recommended to monitor the HbA1c levels and lipid profiles at least annually.
8. Keep your triglycerides and cholesterol under control
Cholesterol can be in the form of HDL or LDL. HDL or High-Density Cholesterol is known as good cholesterol. LDL, or Low-Density Cholesterol, similarly is synonymous with bad cholesterol. HDL takes the cholesterol to the liver for disposal. On the other hand, too much LDL may cling to your arteries and block them. Clogged arteries prevent blood from reaching the heart and cause a heart attack. Hence, HDL levels should be high, and LDL should be low, if you want to avoid the risk of heart disease.
To raise HDL and lower LDL, you should:
- Boil, grill, or bake foods instead of deep-frying.
- Use vegetable oils instead of butter.
- Consume more citrus fruits, grapes, nuts like almonds, and berries.
- Include whole grains, beans, lentils, and fish, like sardines and salmon, in your diet.
- Avoid high-calorie foods.
- Remove the skin from poultry before cooking.
As a precaution against heart attack, you should go for periodic checkups and take the tests recommended by the doctor. One of the most important tests is the HDL test. This helps to find out the risk of developing heart disease. If you have any doubts, take the HDL test as early as possible without any delays.
Even individuals with diabetes and also those in the prediabetes range should get regular check ups of the cholesterol and triglyceride levels to prevent the risk of heart diseases.
Those with a family history of diabetes and hypertension should go periodically for cardiac risk profile assessment to monitor cardiac health.