Preventing Heart Disease – Simple Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Heart

Dr. Kamal K. Pourmoghadam

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death, globally. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, around 610,000 people die due to heart disease every year in the United States alone. This means that heart disease is the cause of 1 in every 4 deaths in the U.S.

What Causes Heart Disease?

While age and family history also contribute to determining your heart health, the World Health Organization has identified smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and alcohol abuse as the key factors that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by contributing to hypertension, obesity, and increased blood glucose levels.

Is It Possible To Prevent Heart Disease?

While age and family history are beyond one’s control, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is considered as the best weapon to prevent and fight against heart problems.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the preventive measures can be divided into three categories. While all three types include the same elements, their starting times are different due to which they also have different effects.

1. Primordial Prevention

The ideal way to prevent heart disease is to begin taking precautionary measures in your life as soon as possible.
This includes adopting a healthy lifestyle to prevent obesity, high cholesterol, and hypertension, which then will eliminate the risks of the inflammation of arteries, endothelial dysfunction, and atherosclerosis.

2. Primary Prevention

These preventive measures are aimed at people who have already developed the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Their main objective is to keep the risk factors under control in order to prevent the development of a heart disease.

Primary prevention includes making lifestyle changes as well as taking medication, if and when needed.

3. Secondary Prevention

This category includes the measures taken after a person has developed a heart disease, heart attack or stroke. In most cases, patients may have undergone a surgical procedure, like angioplasty or even a bypass surgery.
Secondary preventive measures include a combination of healthy diet, lifestyle changes, and medication.
While these measures cannot reverse heart health, they can greatly reduce the chances of a second heart attack by preventing the progression of heart disease.

Simple Ways to Prevent Heart Disease

In view of the risk factors identified by the World Health Organization, the following lifestyle changes can help prevent or greatly reduce the risk of heart problems:

* Start Exercising

Physical activity can help with maintaining a healthy weight as well as controlling blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels, which then leads to improved heart health. As per the guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services, you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise for at least 5 days a week to prevent heart problems as well as to improve your overall health.

* Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity is one of the major contributing factors to heart problems. Calculate your BMI and make sure to maintain your weight in the healthy range to prevent health issues, including the heart disease.

* Quit Smoking and Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Smoking cigarette and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Alcohol intake is also linked to weight gain (by increasing your calorie intake). Both these factors affect your heart health and can increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake to protect your heart.

* Keep an Eye on the Numbers

Your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure play a huge role in determining your heart health.
Higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can clog your arteries and cause a coronary heart disease, which then increases the risk of heart attack. Similarly, high blood pressure and glucose levels can also negatively affect your heart health. Get them checked regularly to make sure the levels aren’t high and take immediate measures to control them if they exceed the healthy range.

* Stress Management

Stress is a major factor that can cause heart disease. Stress not only increases blood pressure, but also leads to many unhealthy habits. Many people resort to drinking, smoking and overeating to cope with the daily stresses, all of which have a negative impact on the heart. Deal with your stress by opting for healthier choices, like listening to music, meditating, exercising, or doing yoga.

* Eat a Healthy Diet

We all know how important diet and nutrition is for our overall health. There are many foods known to promote heart health and reduce the risk of developing heart diseases, even if you have a genetic predisposition or family history for them. Begin your journey to a healthy heart by making simple dietary changes – stop eating fatty foods and junk. Also, limit the consumption of red meat to once or twice a month. Start eating more heart-healthy foods – they are known to promote heart health by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control and prevent inflammation. A heart-healthy diet includes lots of raw vegetables and fruits, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains. Some foods that prevent heart disease include leafy greens, fish, garlic, berries, dark chocolate, chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, and walnuts.

The Bottom Line

Preventing or reducing the chances of a heart disease isn’t as difficult as many of us think. Making small changes in our lifestyle and habits can offer great help to keep our hearts strong and healthy. Give up on your bad habits and opt for a healthy heart diet to prevent heart disease as well as improve your overall health.

About Dr. Kamal K. Pourmoghadam
Kamal Pourmoghadam, MD, is a pediatric cardiac surgeon at The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. He is board certified in general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery and congenital cardiac surgery.
Dr. Pourmoghadam earned his bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley, and his medical degree from Albany Medical College in New York. He trained for adult cardiac surgery at the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, and for congenital cardiac surgery at the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
Dr. Pourmoghadam is a professor of surgery at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, practicing congenital cardiac surgery for over twenty years and has been active in clinical research. He has extensive experience in neonatal and infant cardiac surgery and has special interest in the repair of single ventricle physiology patients and research in univentricular hearts.

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