Seven ways to prevent heart disease

Friday, March 15, 2019

1. Sleep well, feel better

Fact: Lack of sleep is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes and consequently, an increased likelihood of developing heart disease.

We know that it’s easier said than done, but maybe try to be a little bit stricter with your own bedtime. You can try to avoid watching that movie at 10pm or reducing the time spent on social networks (don’t underestimate this - according to report from Global Web Index completed in 2019, people spend on average 142 minutes per day on social media).

 

2. Be more physically active

Facts:

  • Around 39% of UK adults (around 20 million people) fail to meet Government recommendations for physical activity
  • Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by up to 35%
  • Around 5 million deaths worldwide are attributed to physical inactivity

Getting regular exercise benefits you in many ways, such as the reduction of the bad cholesterol levels, the improvement of your blood circulation and the maintenance of your blood pressure at healthier levels.

 

3. “We are what we eat”

Fact: Being overweight or being obese can increase your likelihood of having heart disease.

You know this one. It’s easier to control our weight by reducing salt and fat intake. We have access to a greater variety of foods than ever before so open your mind to healthy alternatives. Ditch the takeaway - you won’t regret it in a few years’ time. Remember, it’s not only about salt and fat. High sugar intake increases your chances of developing diabetes, which is directly linked to coronary heart disease.

 

4. Promote good social habits, avoid smoking and excess alcohol consumption

Fact: Smoking is one of the major risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries) and causes most of the cases of coronary thrombosis in people under the age of 50.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will significantly lower your risk for heart disease.

Also, there is a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and hypertension (High Blood pressure). UK Chief Medical Officers, in January 2016, suggested that both men and women shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week to keep health risks to a low level.

 

5. Stress

Fact: Stress is linked to heart disease in many ways.

It generally raises your blood pressure and can be just the right trigger for a heart attack. Besides, stress is usually the main cause for people to overeat, smoke and drink which take you all the way back to the beginning of this list.

So, what can you do to feel less stressed? Short-term solutions may involve listening to calm music, exercising (running, walking, swimming, yoga), painting or meditating (focus on being calm or peaceful).

 

6. Control your blood pressure

Fact: It is recommended that all adults check their blood pressure at least once a year.

If you’re following steps one to five, you’re more likely to have a normal blood pressure. However, there are still other factors such as genetics, which may influence your blood pressure levels.

High blood pressure or “Hypertension” rarely has noticeable symptoms but, if not treated, significantly increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes. If your blood pressure is high, you may require medication.

 

7. Keep your cholesterol levels under control

Fact: Lifestyle and genetics are the main contributor to high levels “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides in the blood.

Unfortunately, we cannot change our genetics, so if changing your lifestyle doesn’t bring your cholesterol levels down, you may need to take medication.

 

If you’re worried about your risk of heart disease, speak to your GP.

Joao Azevedo
Regional Echocardiography Lead

References
I. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-heart-disease/prevention/
II. https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventheartdisease.html
III. https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2019/01/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic.html
IV. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27744513
V. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/effects-of-alcohol-on-your-heart