Being a health nut (as you know), I like to stay up to date on the latest information regarding health issues. A recent news report stated that heart attacks are the number one killer in the world. Just because this is true, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing you or I can do to prevent having one yourself. In fact, in most cases, heart attacks are preventable. According to the Mayo Clinic, our lifestyle is the main culprit in making heart disease so wide-spread. Adopting lifestyle strategies to help prevent a heart attack will help you achieve improved health and wellness and reduce our chance of experiencing a heart attack. For me, these changes are well worth the investment. Who would want to end up feeling like this?:
I know I sure don’t. So, I looked into the lifestyle strategies that the Mayo Clinic was referring to and here is what I found:
Make the decision
First, in order to change, you need to make a commitment to yourself that you will implement the changes to your lifestyle necessary to keep your heart healthy. Make changes gradually; don’t try to change everything at once. If you slip back, don’t worry; you can easily pick up where you left off. Get your mind right first for greater success. Then do the following:
Improve the quality of your diet
The more processed a food is, the worse it is for the health of your heart as well as your body in general. Gradually make these changes to your diet:
- Cook your own meals at home more often.
- Choose healthy methods of cooking. Limit fried food, use stir frying and steaming.
- Limit the amount of fast food you eat. Avoid foods with hydrogenated oils and trans fats.
- Incorporate more vegetables into your meals; half the meal should be veggies of many different colors.
- Eat protein at every meal but make it lean and have a portion the size of your palm. Experiment with plant proteins, like beans and pulses.
- Make fish, like salmon and mackerel, a regular part of your diet as it contains essential Omega 3 fatty acids that the body cannot make itself.
- Eat foods with the ‘good’ fats like avocado, nuts and seeds. Use healthy olive oil for cooking and dressings.
- Include low fat dairy in your diet; snack on yogurt and fruit smoothies.
- Limit highly-processed foods like white bread, pasta and rice as they contain little nutrition. Look for the whole grain options which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol consumption.
Be physically active on most days
Sedentary lifestyles are a major contributing factor to heart disease. Regular exercise is needed to keep the heart strong and able to function efficiently, as well as helping to eliminate other conditions that are commonly associated with heart disease. These include high blood pressure and cholesterol, stress and diabetes.
Any activity that provides consistent, moderate movement qualifies as exercise, as long as it is continued for at least 30 minutes at a time. Recent research has shown that even small amounts of activity can make a difference to heart health so you can break down the activity into 10 minute sections.
You will benefit whether you have regular intensive workouts, swim laps, cycle or walk around your neighborhood, wash the car, mow the grass, clean the house or take the stairs. If you are not sure where to start, try using my Skip the Gym, Sweat at Home series.
Maintain a health weight
Being overweight puts added strain on the heart and blood vessels, causes high cholesterol and blood pressure. These conditions greatly increase the likelihood of you having a heart attack or a stroke.
Many people are able to lose weight and control it with correct diet and regular exercise and this is the best way. Ask your doctor for advice on weight loss but remember that there is no quick fix to losing weight. Avoid fad diets and any program that promises fast results as these are generally unsustainable.
If you smoke – quit
Tobacco use can cause cancer, damage to the heart and blood vessels and high blood pressure. It is a major cause of heart attack and there is no good reason to continue. There are numerous excellent products, procedures and courses available to help you quit, so take advantage of these to help prevent a heart attack.
Have regular health checks
See your doctor for regular check-ups when your blood pressure and cholesterol can be checked. Ask about the risk factors for heart attack and ascertain whether you have any of the known risk factors.
Gradually incorporate these lifestyle changes into your life to help prevent a heart attack and enable yourself to live a long and prosperous life.
So, what kind of lifestyle habits do you have? Can you make some improvements to reduce your risk?
These all sound fine but I was wonderrign whether stress is a factor in all that. Because, I suspect it would be the hardest to deal with (of course some of these are not independent but nested factors; for instance exercise reduces stress).
While the items you mention certainly won’t hurt and probably will help, sometimes it is just in your genes – so if you do all of these things and still have heart issues, don’t blame yourself!
Great thoughts miss T I’m really going to enjoy not having a heart attack later in life, so I’ll continue doing what I’m doing and adding a few of your tips – hopefully, I luck out.
It’s no use being rich if you’re not healthy. We don’t fry anything at home, it’s too much work. We eat fries with our burger when we go out though. 🙂
One quick question – what’s a pulse? You stated it in the section on proteins but I never heard of it.
We had stir fry tonight! It’s so easy to just get in the car and eat out now that it’s almost a chore to make food. However, when we do (which is most nights…we strive to go out to eat one night a week), it’s awesome. We have great conversations and eat more vegetables and less meat. Overall, it’s a much more ideal way to go.
Thanks for the Mayo facts. Just one more reason to keep getting out of bed and doing the morning run….
Stress is a significant contributing factor. It just makes everything worse. If arteries are already clogged, raising blood pressure and flooding the system with cortisol won’t help. As Maria said, gentle exercise has the double benefit of increasing fitness and reducing stress.
One place I know I’m not good in reducing my risk is eating enough whole grains. I found out that I’m not eating enough even though I eat wheat bread; it’s just not the whole wheat variety. My weakness, though, is white rice — gotta switch to brown!
I am definitely mindful of my cardiovascular health, as is my wife. While we strive for balance, we tend to eat healthy. I also get exercise. I still need to do more cardiovascular conditioning though. Small steps are often key.
Smoking will be the one thing that I’m having the most difficulty with. I know I have to quit. I want to quit. But I can’t seem to find the motivation or the willpower to do it. I’m going to have to really work on that and soon!