Managing your risk factors for heart disease and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent a heart attack and take care of your heart.
Heart disease is a major cause of premature death. Unfortunately, some heart attack risk factors cannot be changed. For example, the risk of heart attack increases with age. Most people who die of a heart attack are 65 or older. Also, people who have a family history of heart disease are more likely to suffer from it themselves. Gender is also a risk factor. Men have a higher risk of heart attack than women and also tend to have heart attacks earlier in life. However, women are more likely to die from a heart attack.
There are also modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight or obese. Controlling them can make a big difference in the risk of heart disease. The good news is that reducing these major heart disease risks can help prevent future heart attacks.
Lifestyle changes to prevent heart attacks
Lifestyle changes are your first line of defense against heart attacks. Most of the major risk factors for heart disease are related in some way to your lifestyle. Including obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You can take the following steps to reduce your risk of a heart attack:
Smoking passes harmful chemicals into your blood and is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which results in the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries. Even if you already have heart disease, you are more likely to have a heart attack, and die from it, if you smoke than if you don’t. If you have coronary artery disease and you smoke, you can reduce your risk of heart attack recurrence and cardiovascular death by 50% by quitting smoking. If you’re not sure how to successfully quit smoking, ask your doctor for help.
Increase your physical activity
Exercise is the cornerstone of a heart-healthy lifestyle, which involves both aerobic and strength-training activities. You should aim for two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, with activities such as brisk walking. Alternatively, you can perform 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running. Also, you should do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. These exercises should work all major muscle groups: legs, arms, chest, shoulders, abdomen, hips and back.
9 tips on diet and heart attack prevention
What you eat and how much you eat can play a big role in your risk of heart attack. Take the following steps to adopt a heart-healthy diet:
1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. It is good to include a wide variety of types and colors of fruits and vegetables.
2. Eat fiber-rich grains and legumes
Good grain-based choices include oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain breads. Legumes include dried beans, chickpeas, lentils.
3. Choose lean meats and fatty fish
The healthiest meats and poultry are 95% lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, and fresh skinless chicken or turkey. Oily fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are salmon, tuna and trout.
4. Eat healthy fats from nuts, seeds and oils.
Consuming healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, can reduce your risk of heart disease. Good sources of these fats are nuts (most varieties of nuts), peanuts, seeds (such as sesame, pumpkin and sunflower) and avocados, as well as canola, olive, safflower and sunflower.
5. Limit salt and sodium
Best to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for optimal heart health. Processed foods are the main source of sodium in most people’s diets. Canned soups, sauces, deli meats, frozen meals, packaged snacks, and breads are often very high in salt.
6. Reduce unhealthy fats
Saturated and trans fats should be limited in your diet. Sources of saturated fat include fatty meats and poultry, high-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. Foods that contain trans fats are made from partially hydrogenated oils, which should be avoided whenever possible. This ingredient is often found in desserts, frozen pizza and margarine.
7. Limit added sugars
Added sugars come in many forms, including brown sugar, regular or high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose, honey, and maple syrup. Sugary drinks and packaged snacks, pastries and candies are the main sources of added sugars.
8. Drink in moderation, if at all
Men should drink no more than two drinks a day, while women should drink only one drink. We’re talking about a glass of wine, not vodka or rum.
9. Watch your calories
You need to eat the right amount of food to maintain a healthy body weight. It depends on your age, gender, and activity level, among other factors. Choosing smaller portions and eating slowly can help you cut calories and maintain a healthy weight.
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