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You Are Never Too Young to Take Care of Your Heart: 4 Tips to Prevent Heart Disease

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You Are Never Too Young to Take Care of Your Heart: 4 Tips to Prevent Heart Disease
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You might think that heart disease is a disease for over 50’s. But you’d be wrong. Recent studies find that people of all ages should be worried about heart-related illnesses.

According to medical experts, there are multiple risk factors involved in heart disease, with the most important being blood cholesterol and blood pressure. We’ve put together 4 tips to help you manage these factors, reduce your risk, and prevent heart disease.

What is Coronary Heart Disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) refers to the condition where blood supply to the heart gets reduced or blocked. When cholesterol, in the form of a plaque or wax-like substance called atheroma, gets deposited on the inner walls of coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to the heart muscles), the passage of these arteries narrows, and as a result, the amount of blood flow to the heart is reduced. This partial blockage of arteries can lead to chest pain and discomfort, a condition called angina. However, when a piece of atheroma ruptures from the arterial wall and blocks the blood supply to the heart, it leads to a heart attack, and heart failure.

Risk Factors Contributing to Heart Diseases

Cholesterol Intake

Eating too many bad fats is doubly detrimental: it can make you obese and increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, thereby putting you at higher risk of CHD. Of course, not all fats are the same, and your body needs some fat to perform important functions.

There are two types of cholesterol in the body: low density lipoprotein (LDL) also commonly known as ‘bad cholesterol’ is what gets deposited in the arteries; high density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good cholesterol’ helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your body.

Following a Mediterranean diet, which replaces LDL-rich saturated fats (from beef, lamb, pork, lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products) and trans fats (present in biscuits, crisps and cakes) with HDL-rich monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats can keep bad cholesterol levels from rising in the first place. Vegetables and whole grains, nuts, pulses, oats, fruits, dark chocolate and foods rich in Omega 3 such as walnuts, oily fish and olive oil can boost your levels of good cholesterol.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, speak to your doctor and have them checked.

Tip #1:
Be mindful of which fats you include in your diet. Swap the saturated fats from meat and dairy for healthier fats from nuts, seeds, and oily fish.

Smoking

Studies show that people who smoke are 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack compared to non-smokers. This is because tobacco smoke increases the amount of carbon monoxide, while reducing the oxygen concentration in the blood. As a result, your heart has to pump more in order to supply the required amount of oxygen to your body. This puts a lot of stress on the heart. What’s more, nicotine triggers the body to produce epinephrine, also commonly known as adrenaline, a stress hormone that also puts your heart under strain. According to British Heart Foundation (BHF), “Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.”

Tip #2:
If you smoke, speak to your doctor, or a friend who’s stopped or is thinking of stopping smoking, and find a smoking cessation strategy that works for you.

Physical Inactivity and Stress

Modern life is both sedentary and stressful, and while these two things seem opposite, they both put your heart under strain. Sitting down most of the day increases your risk of obesity, and cardiovascular illness. Being in stress, either trying to meet a deadline or worrying about bills, increases your levels of cortisol; which in turn puts you at higher risk of disease. So how can you neutralize the effects of modern living on your health?Physical Inactivity and Stress

Studies indicate that any form of physical exercise such as aerobics, walking, jogging, cycling, skipping, swimming for about 20 to 30 minutes a day, five days a week can increase the amount of good cholesterol in the blood which as we’ve seen helps to keep your heart healthy. Exercise also help you to better cope with stress, which is another significant factor in cardiovascular health. When you work out, you reduce your level of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and trigger the release of endorphins, which are our very own natural pain killers and help to elevate our mood. Getting off the train or bus one stop earlier, taking stairs instead of the elevator, or cycling to work can count towards your daily exercise regime.  Meditation and breathing exercises can also beat stress by helping you to manage emotions and your responses to difficult situations.

Tip #3:
Commit to moving your body more by including some form of exercise into your daily routine. Take time to meditate every day to help soothe away stress and worry.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hypertension is a condition wherein the blood puts pressure on the arterial walls, causing strain on the arteries and heart. High blood pressure may not always have recognizable symptoms but it silently damages the heart. According to William Harvey Research Foundation, UK; high blood pressure is Some of the risk factors involved in high blood pressure include high salt, high fat diet, alcohol, and diabetes. It is recommended that you restrict your salt-intake to no more than 5-6g (or 0.02oz) (equivalent to one teaspoon) per day to maintain normal blood pressure levels, and restrict alcohol consumption within recommended limits.

Tip #4:
Keep your alcohol, salt and saturated fat intake to a minimum by avoiding processed foods and focusing on natural plant-based foods. This will ensure you keep your blood pressure stable, and your heart healthy.

Even though you may not be able to control some of the genetic factors involved; such as family history, age and sex, changing your diet and lifestyle will reduce your risk of heart disease and dramatically improve your overall health.

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