Ten strategies to prevent heart disease, stroke

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 00:00 | By
Heart disease.
Heart disease. Illustration/Courtesy

Go nuts

A healthy diet can help protect your heart, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch for lowering your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease.

Studies show that substituting saturated fats with fat from nuts actually helps reduce bad cholesterol.

Focus on the middle

Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has linked excess belly fat to higher blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid levels.

If you are carrying extra fat around your middle, it’s time to slim down. Eating fewer calories and exercising more can make a big difference.

Know your numbers

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 whether you need to take action.

From the age of 18, your blood pressure should be measured at least once every two years to screen for high blood pressure as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

If you are between 18 and 39 and have risk factors for high blood pressure, you are likely to be screened once a year.

Individuals above the age of 40 are also given a blood pressure test annually.

On the other hand, adults generally have their cholesterol measured at least once every four to six years.

Cholesterol screening usually starts at age 20, though earlier testing may be recommended if you have other risk factors such as a family history of early onset heart disease.

Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have risk factors for diabetes such as being overweight or having a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend early screening.

If your weight is normal and you don’t have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, screening is recommended beginning at the age of 45, with retesting every three years.

Cut down on salt

If you have a diet high in salt, it’s likely that your blood pressure could be high too – which means you have an increased risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke.

The recommended maximum daily intake of salt is just six grammes for adults and three grammes for children.

Cut down by trying not to use any salt at all at the table and reducing how much you use in cooking.

Also, keep an eye on food labels to check how much salt you are eating in processed foods.

Practice good dental hygiene

Dental health is a good indication of overall health, including your heart, because those who have periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease.

Studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels.

These changes may in turn, increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It is, therefore, important to floss and brush your teeth daily to prevent gum disease.

Laugh out loud

Don’t just Laugh out Loud (LOL) on WhatsApp or Facebook posts. Laugh out loud in your daily life.

Whether you like watching funny movies or cracking jokes with your friends, laughter may be good for your heart.

Research suggests laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD), also known as “good cholesterol.”.

Play between the sheets

Having sex can be good for your heart. Sexual activity may add more than just pleasure to your life.

It may also help lower your blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Research published in the American Journal of Cardiology shows that a lower frequency of sexual activity is associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

Walk it off

The next time you feel overwhelmed, exasperated, or angry, take a stroll. Even a five-minute walk can help clear your head and lower your stress levels, which is good for your health.

Taking a half-hour walk every day is even better for your physical and mental health.

Consider pet therapy

Pets give us more than unconditional love; they offer numerous health benefits.

Studies show that owning pets can lower the rate of dying from heart disease and possibly improve heart and lung function.

Find your happy place

A sunny outlook may be good for your heart, as well as your mood. Chronic stress, anxiety, and anger can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Maintaining a positive outlook on life may help you stay healthier for longer. 

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