According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the leading cause of death in almost every developed country. Ischemic heart disease and stroke (the two most deadly forms of heart disease) killed more than 15 million people in 2016, globally.
Ischemic heart disease is the main cause of heart attack. This cardiac disease occurs when plaque (atherosclerosis) builds up in an important blood vessel and clogs the arteries that carry blood, nutrients, and oxygen to your heart. Eventually, this will decrease or completely stop blood flow to a part of the heart, damaging the heart muscle and provoking a heart attack.
Heart disease prevention is ultimately an individual responsibility. If you commit to a healthy and active lifestyle, the odds of keeping a healthy heart for long years are clearly in your favor. Here’s how you can prevent a heart attack with 8 lifestyle changes.
1. Practice good dental hygiene
How can poor dental hygiene lead to heart problems, you ask? Well, according to a study published in the medical journal Hypertension back in 2018, poor dental hygiene can lead to periodontal disease (also known as gum disease – a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the gums). In turn, this problem may cause high blood pressure, the most common heart disease risk factor.
If you needed another good reason to take good care of your dental health, there you have it. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day for two and a half minutes. And don’t forget to floss!
2. Stop smoking and heavy drinking
The damaging effects of smoking are well known. However, most people worry mostly about respiratory problems and lung cancer, ignoring other health conditions that can be as dangerous as those mentioned, if not more.
Smoking increases blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease drastically.
Besides being more likely to have a heart attack than other people, smokers are also more likely to die from one. This information probably won’t be enough to convince you to quit your nicotine addiction, but give it a thought.
Heavy alcohol intake also causes high blood pressure, obesity, high triglycerides, and may even lead to cardiomyopathy and irregular heartbeat (in addition to other obvious health problems). The best thing you can do for your health is to limit the number of alcoholic beverages you drink daily as much as possible.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Lack of sleep can have a tremendous negative impact on both your mental and physical health. In addition to increasing your stress levels and fatigue, it can also raise your blood pressure and lead to weight gain and diabetes. Interestingly enough, all these are risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
Try to sleep an appropriate number of hours every night (7 to 8 hours) and talk to your doctor if you frequently have insomnias or other sleep disorders.
4. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is the best way to keep you away from conditions that increase the risk of having a heart attack such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity.
Additionally, a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology concluded that physically active people are much likely to survive a heart attack. Thirty minutes of daily moderate exercise can make all the difference!
5. Reduce your stress levels
Your psychological health also has a big impact on your life and overall health. In this modern life, the causes of stress can be many: work-related issues, family pressure, personal problems, lack of sleep or work-life balance, among many others. That’s why stress management has become one of the most important things nowadays.
Recent studies also suggest that there is a strong link between stress and anxiety levels and ischemic heart disease. Finding a way to control your stress is now more crucial than ever. Try meditating, exercising, talking to a friend or a therapist, going out, or changing your diet. You will certainly find something that works out for you.
6. Healthy and balanced diet
Your diet can essentially control the majority of risk factors for heart disease: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and weight. That’s why you should opt for a diet based on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibers but low on calories. You should also avoid sugars, salt, and saturated fats.
7. Check your family history
You must know your family’s medical history and give that piece of information to your doctor. People who have family members that suffered from heart disease and other conditions are at greater risk of developing said conditions themselves. By knowing that history, your doctor will be better prepared to act in a preventive manner and advise you in the best way possible.
8. Manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels
Heart disease is usually silent. It is therefore essential to control all its risk factors. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in check and measure them frequently. If you are in a risk group, talk to your doctor and he will tell if you need to have an EKG once a year to keep track of the electrical activity of your heart.
How to detect a heart attack: signs and symptoms
When someone has a heart attack, getting medical assistance as fast as possible is fundamental and could be the difference between life and death. The problem is that heart attack symptoms vary immensely. Some people experience mild pain, others have a sudden cardiac arrest. For some it happens suddenly, for others, the symptoms appear hours or days in advance.
Here are the common heart attack symptoms (if you think you are having a heart attack, call for emergency help immediately):
-Shortness of breath
-Pressure, pain, or aching sensation in your chest or arms that spread to the neck, jaw, or back
-Heartburn or abdominal pain