The heart is one of the most vital organs in our body.
It is a pump, composed of muscle which pumps blood throughout the body. From the moment it begins beating until the moment it stops, the human heart works tirelessly. In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest. Like a pumping machine, the heart provides the power needed for life. The heart pumps the blood, which carries all the vital materials which help our bodies function and removes the waste products that we do not need.
We need to love this important organ in our body and take care of it, so that it can keep taking care of us. Some people take supplements to help their heart cope with the load of daily activities. I myself take CoQ10/Coenzyme Q10 and find it works well. (here’s a post on that). Heart disease may be a leading cause of death, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate, if you have it. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors, such as family history, sex or age, there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.
You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are 5 heart disease prevention tips to get you started.The 5 practical ways, to protect your heart are:
1. Quit Smoking
We have not said this enough times, but smoking is a killer, so Quit Smoking. It may look cool when you’re young to do it, but in the long run, you will definitely pay the price. Tobacco is the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. Before you think it’s the smoke that’s harmful, smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.
In addition, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by narrowing your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke than are those who don’t do either. This risk increases with age, especially in women older than 35.
The good news, though, is that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year. And no matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit.
2. Exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week
Not everbody is an energizer bunny but the good news is that you don’t need to work out hard core, to reap the benefits of exercise. We are only suggesting you do 30 minutes a day – something that will already reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.
Physical activity can also reduce high blood pressure, reduce your weight, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also reduces stress, which may be a factor in heart disease. The good new is that activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward these 30 minutes. If you’re feeling good, by all means keep going for 45 mins or an hour. The idea is to work up a sweat and to keep your heart pumping and healthy. You don’t have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet
We are what we eat. And whilst not all of us are called to a life of pure veganism or vegetarianism, we can still watch our diet and eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Also a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of cold water fish rich in omega3 also can reduce your risk of heart disease.
You will also need to give up the hardcore boozing! One glass of wine a day, no more, no less, and only that has a protective effect on the heart. Otherwise, you will be overdoing it!
Limiting the bad fats you eat also is important. Of the types of fat — saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat — saturated fat and trans fat are the worst and they increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. Look at the label for the term “partially hydrogenated” to avoid trans fat.
We cannot emphasize enough that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can not only help prevent heart disease, but also may help prevent cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, may decrease your risk of heart attack, protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Some fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are a good natural source of omega-3. Omega-3 are also present in chia seeds, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and canola oil, and they can also be found in supplements.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Loose fat, gain muscle. That is the key to living to a ripe old age. Throw way the weighing scales because it is not so much about weight anymore.
The BMI is a good, but imperfect guide to a healthy weight. Muscle weighs more than fat, for instance, and women and men who are very muscular and physically fit can have high BMIs without added health risks. Because of that, waist circumference also is a better tool to measure how much abdominal fat you have:
- Men are considered overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (101.6 centimeters, or cm)
- Women are overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (88.9 cm)
Reducing fat levels by just 10 percent can decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes.
5. Get regular health screenings
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
- Blood pressure. Regular blood pressure screenings start in childhood. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years. You may need more-frequent checks if your numbers aren’t ideal or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury.
- Cholesterol levels. Adults should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years starting at age 20. You may need more frequent testing if your numbers aren’t optimal or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Some children may need their blood cholesterol tested if they have a strong family history of heart disease.
- Diabetes screening. Since diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease, you may want to consider being screened for diabetes. Talk to your doctor about when you should have a fasting blood sugar test to check for diabetes. Depending on your risk factors, such as being overweight or a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend first testing you for diabetes sometime between ages 30 and 45, and then retesting every three to five years.