Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Every 43 seconds, a case of heart attack is reported. Surprisingly, research has indicated that nearly 80% of heart attacks are preventable by the mere adoption of healthy lifestyle choices.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is either cut off or significantly reduced. The primary cause behind this disrupted supply of blood is the narrowing of coronary arteries that carry the blood to the heart. This is due to the accumulation of plaque within the arteries, which comprises of cholesterol and built-up fat, along with other things.
A recent study that followed 69,247 female participants over a span of two decades has identified six healthy lifestyle choices that can prevent about 3/4 of heart attacks in young women. Adopting all six of these simple practices plummets the risk of a heart attack by 92%.
They also reduce the risk of developing risk factors of heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes by 66%. These practices include maintaining a normal body mass index (BMI), engaging in a minimum of 2.5 hours of physical activity each week, limiting alcohol consumption, refraining from smoking, adopting a healthy diet and watching a limited number of hours of television per week.
The same study has also shown that people who have been diagnosed with a risk factor for heart disease can effectively reduce the risk of cardiac arrest by adhering to at least four of these habits.
Let us have a detailed look as to how these habits protect us from a heart attack and how to inculcate them in our everyday lives:
1. Adopt a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is absolutely essential to reducing the risk of heart failure. A good way to start is to avoid processed, fatty and sugary food items and opt for foods with low trans-fat and saturated fat. Lean meats, vegetables, fiber-packed whole grains, nuts, beans and fruits should be an essential part of your diet plan. If you’re an avid tea drinker, use this habit to your benefit and drink green tea regularly. Or if you enjoy more flavors, add herbal fruit tea to your diet to cut down on sugary drinks. Moreover, while preparing dishes we should restrict the use of salt (sodium) as it elevates blood pressure. Sugar is another ingredient that should be avoided in excess amounts.
According to research, people who acquire 8% of their calories from added sugars had a 38% lower risk of heart attacks as opposed to those who consumed around 17-21%. In addition to this, we should incorporate tea and green tea as part of our daily diet because they help to unclog arteries. According to a recent study, drinking one cup of green tea each day reduces the risk of cardiac arrest by 35%. An ideal meal, therefore, would be one that includes portions of meats, vegetables, whole grains as well as fruits.
2. Exercise Regularly
Lack of physical activity is one of the major reasons behind coronary heart diseases. By simply adding 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity to our weekly routine we can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks. This roughly equals to 30 minutes of mild workouts, jogging, stair stepping, yoga, etc per day, 5 days a week.
According to another research, incorporating physical activity on a daily basis significantly diminishes the risk of developing heart diseases. Exercise lowers blood pressure, weight and insulin sensitivity, thus, safeguarding us from heart attacks as well as other heart diseases. Remaining active also significantly reduces the risk of high cholesterol and diabetes which contribute to the risk of heart failure.
If such activity cannot be done on a daily basis, it should be incorporated in two or three sessions throughout the week or over the weekends.
3. Restrict alcohol intake
Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to increased chances of high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure. Alcohol increases the level of triglycerides in our blood, paving the way for high blood pressure as well as heart attacks. Therefore, we should avoid taking alcohol altogether. If you must drink, restrict the intake to the maximum of two drinks only. If you are planning or trying to quit alcohol, the best idea is to substitute alcohol with energy drinks or tea as this will keep you hydrated and you will feel good about yourself.
4. Stop consuming tobacco
Smoking tobacco is one of the leading factors that cause sudden cardiac arrest in patients who have been diagnosed with coronary heart diseases. The damaging effects of smoking are also extended to second-hand smoking and, therefore, both should be avoided. Research indicates that by quitting tobacco alone, we can lower our risk of heart disease by 50% in one years’ time.
5. Maintain a healthy BMI
Being overweight has adverse implications on our health including high cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides levels, reduced levels of good cholesterol and diabetes. Carrying extra weight primarily in the stomach region places stress on the heart and facilities the development of diabetes.
Therefore, it is imperative that we maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) by opting for an overall healthier lifestyle. Research indicates that by only shedding 5-10% of excessive body weight, we are able to significantly manage blood sugar and blood pressure.
6. 1 hour of TV per day
Probably the most intriguing among the causes of heart disease is viewing too much television. The reason for this is that sitting idle in front of a television set facilitates overeating and diminishes the quality of our sleep. These factors have been found to contribute to the risk of heart failure and it is recommended that we refrain from spending more than 7 hours in front of the television within a week’s time.