“Of the 54 million deaths worldwide in 2015, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes. Heart attack and stroke are the (leading causes), accounting for a combined 15 million deaths in 2015. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years.” – The World Health Organization
Ischemic heart disease is a condition wherein narrowed arteries cause less blood oxygen to be delivered to the heart. Also known as coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, ischemia (restriction of blood flow) to the heart can lead to a heart attack.
A stroke occurs when blood oxygen is cut off to one or various parts of the brain. Cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. This results in the loss of function controlled by the area(s) of the brain affected. Over 6 million people die of stroke every year, and an addition 5 million are permanently disabled.
Either condition can be caused by genetic predispositions and/or lifestyle choices. The former is an uncontrollable variable; the latter isn’t.
In this article, we discuss eight healthy habits that lower the risk of both heart attack and stroke. Even small changes can disproportionately tilt the odds in your favor.
Let’s get to it!
Here are 8 healthy habits that can prevent heart attacks and strokes:
1. Get 30 minutes of exercise every day
A half-hour of moderate exercise five days per week lowers the risk of heart attack. Going for a brisk walk, jogging, swimming, or calisthenics are all healthy choices. On the remaining two days, get in a light session of strength training.
The 30 minutes allocated to exercise can be done in one go or split up. If possible, try to get 10-15 minutes for each session to keep your heart rate up.
2. Don’t smoke
Did you predict this would be the next one? Good job, smarty!
On a serious note, smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 200-400 percent, depending on both frequency (of smoking) and genetics. Secondhand smoke isn’t a victimless act, either.
People regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work have a 25-30 percent higher chance of developing heart disease, and a 20-30 percent higher chance of having a stroke. Some states have realized the dangers of secondhand smoke and outlawed smoking in enclosed public areas.
3. Eat healthy
Every day, make it a point to eat a well-balanced diet. WebMD recommends a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lean meats.
Preservative-laden foods should be limited or restricted. Processed and prepared foods (which often contain a ton of preservatives) are often high in added sugars and sodium and should also be limited.
4. Drink alcohol in moderation
A moderate amount of alcohol consumption can help your heart. Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men.
Excessive drinking can lead to a number of health problems. You also raise the risk of acquiring hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.
5. Trim up a little
Most of us are a bit chunky (including yours truly). You needn’t become a marathon runner or triathlete to reduce your risk of health problems. Per WebMD, “If you lost 5 to 10% of your weight, you’ll improve cholesterol numbers and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.”
6. Take any prescribed heart meds
We know. We don’t like the idea of prescription drugs, either. However, if a licensed physician prescribes meds to deal with a heart condition, just take them.
If you have an issue taking your medications on time for whatever reason – cost, forgetfulness, or (especially) side-effects, get some advice from your physician.
Those that don’t already should consider taking a daily Omega-3 supplement. Consisting of DHA and EHA properties, Omega-3 supplements are very heart healthy.
7. Eat some dark chocolate
(Finally, something we can all get behind!)
Dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants and other nutritional properties that protect your heart. Some advice: purchase chocolate products that consist of at least 70 percent cacao.
Up to three chunks of dark chocolate per day is recommended.
8. Watch your symptoms
Three dangerous symptoms to watch out for are shortness of breath, chest pain, and numbness/tingling (usually on one side of the body.) Forget about waiting for these symptoms to go away. Go and get them checked out.
Try to make sure that you’re scheduling a comprehensive physical examination at least once per year. As we age, different health variables must be taken into account. Males and females have different health needs as well. A good doctor (look online or ask your friends) will know this when you visit for an examination.
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American Heart Association. Smoking and Heart Disease. Retrieved from https://www.goredforwomen.org/know-your-risk/factors-that-increase-your-risk-for-heart-disease/smoking-heart-disease/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Smoking and Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/heart-disease-stroke.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is alcohol? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
WebMD. (2017). Tips to Lower Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/protect-your-heart-17/stroke-heart-risk
World Health Organization. (2017, January). The top 10 causes of death. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/