Cardiovascular disease may be fatal, but that does not mean that it is inevitable. While it is impossible to change some personal risk factors such as family history, age and gender, there are a few simple key prevention measures that you can carry out to reduce the risk.
You can avoid future heart problems by adopting a healthy lifestyle right away. Here are seven prevention tips to set you on the right track.
1 - Do not smoke or use tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco in any form is one of the main risk factors that may favor the onset of cardiovascular disease. The chemical components of tobacco may damage your heart or blood vessels, resulting in a narrowing of the arteries due to plaque build-up (arteriosclerosis). Arteriosclerosis may cause a heart attack.
In terms of cardiovascular prevention, no type of tobacco use is without risk, including passive smoking. However, it is very clear that the more tar you smoke and inhale, the greater the risk becomes. The use of smokeless tobacco, low-tar or low-nicotine cigarettes or even electronic cigarettes should also be seen as a risk.
Women who smoke and take contraceptives increase the risk of having a heart attack as both factors contribute to the creation of blood clots.
2 - Exercise for 30 minutes each day
Daily exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you combine physical activity with other healthy lifestyle measures such as maintaining a healthy weight, the result will only be better.
Physical activity helps you to control your weight and reduces the development of other pathologies which can affect your heart such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
We recommend that you exercise regularly, preferring more gentle activities such as brisk walking for around 30 minutes per day.
If you can’t follow these recommendations due to lack of time, don’t give up! You can achieve the same results by breaking exercise down into three ten-minute sessions per day.
Don’t forget that activities which may seem trivial such as gardening, housework, using the stairs or taking the dog for a walk also count as daily physical activity.
3 - Eat healthy
Healthy eating reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. Two recommendations of healthy diets are DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet.
A diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains will protect your heart. Eating beans, light dairy products, lean meat and fish is the foundation of a healthy diet.
Avoid too much salt or sugar in your diet.
4 - Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight, especially if the excess weight is concentrated around your waist, increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Excess weight leads to pathologies which increase these risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Men are considered overweight if their waist circumference is greater than 102 cm Women are considered overweight if their waist circumference is greater than 89 cm Weight loss – however little - is always beneficial. Cutting your weight by 3 to 5% decreases your triglycerides or blood sugar level (glucose) and reduces your risk of contracting diabetes.
5 - Get quality sleep
In addition to the feeling of tiredness it causes, lack of sleep may put your health at risk. People who do not sleep enough are at greater risk of becoming obese, and of high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and depression.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you wake up without your alarm clock and feel rested, the amount of sleep you are getting is sufficient. If, however, you regularly hit the snooze button and find it difficult to get up, you need more sleep.
Make sleep a priority in your life. Create a routine by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day. Avoid using screens before going to sleep.
6 - Manage stress
To manage stress, we recommend that you find other alternatives to tobacco or alcohol, such as physical activity or relaxation, yoga or meditation exercises.
7 - Go for regular check-ups
Regular screening tests will tell you whether your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are high and likely to damage your heart and blood vessels.
Blood pressure: if you are over 40, or if you are aged between 18 and 39 with risk factors, get your blood pressure checked annually. The optimum blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mm Hg.
Cholesterol levels: as an adult, you must check your cholesterol at least once every 5 years from the age of 18. For younger people, tests may be recommended, particularly if there are other risk factors such as a family history of early-onset heart disease.
Diabetes testing: as diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, you must check this regularly. Ask your doctor if you must take a fasting glucose test or a glycated hemoglobin test (or HbA1c) to check for diabetes.
If you have a condition such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, your doctor may prescribe medication and will recommend that you change your lifestyle. Take your medication as prescribed and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
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