While there are certainly factors that make us predisposed to heart disease, there is still plenty we can do to avoid falling into the “high risk” category. These simple changes – and yes, they are simple if you’re serious about your health – can mean the difference between serious illness and even death, or a longer, healthy life. Commit today!
1 Quit the smoking already!
Do whatever it takes to stop smoking. We would advise visiting your doctor to get advice and even medication that can help you cut out this terribly damaging habit.
Why? Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, causing fatty build-up and narrowing, making you far more likely to develop heart disease, have a heart attack or stroke. Every smoke makes you more likely to die – that’s the truth.
2 Control high blood pressure
Some indications of high blood pressure include irregular heartbeat, headaches, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, blurry vision and confusion. If you’re unsure whether you have high blood pressure, find out from a clinic or doctor ASAP, so that you can get it under control.
Why? High blood pressure means that your heart has to work extra hard to sustain the abnormal pressure, which puts strain on the heart muscles. This can lead to weakening of the heart over time, meaning you’re more susceptible to heart attack and stroke.
3 Move! Exercise! Get Active!
Besides the obvious benefits of exercise like maintaining your weight, regular movement means that your muscles become stronger and you are less likely to suffer aches, pains and strains. It’s also a huge benefit for your mental health, and it boosts the immune system.
Why? For heart health, the benefits are clear – your heart is exercised just like your other muscles, making it more efficient and less likely to build up fatty deposits in the arteries. Exercise has also been cited as one of the most beneficial things you can do to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
4 Ditch the junk food
You’ve heard about good fats and bad fats. Junk food falls into the bad category – but you knew that already, right? While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional cheat meal, if fast food and takeaways form a big part of your diet, you need to worry.
Why? Bad fats mean cholesterol and build-up of fat in your arteries, which, we’ve already established, puts you at risk of heart disease. Then there’s the other stuff like the excessive sugar, salt and preservatives in these foods, which can cause all sorts of other issues. The bottom line? Make it a once-a-month kind of treat, not a three-times-a-week habit.
5 Manage your stress
Ongoing stress is bad enough for the heart, plus it can often mean that you turn to things like smoking, drugs or alcohol to “unwind” as opposed to healthier measures like exercise, yoga or meditation.
Why? Stress means increased levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones, which raise your blood pressure and put added strain on your heart. In the long term, this can also lead changes in the way blood clots, leaving you at risk of complications.
For more advice and information, visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation, South Africa.