Heart attack or myocardial infarction is no longer reserved for men who are overweight, who smoke and lead a sedentary lifestyle. It is rising among women in a worrying way. Unfortunately, there are risk factors that are not in our control – Gender (men are twice as likely to have myocardial infarction as women), Age (the risk is multiplied by two after 60 years) and Heredity (risk multiplied by 1.5).
On the other hand, it is possible to act on the other risk factors. Starting early and incorporating healthy habits can help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of heart attacks. If you are already aware that cardiovascular diseases run in the family, preventive measures need to begin from an early age. Here are 11 everyday habits that will help improve your heart health:
- Breakfast: Skipping this first meal of the day can be more problematic than you thought. According to the Harvard University nutritionists, the number of heart attacks are 27% higher in people who skip breakfast.
- Oral health: Maintaining oral hygiene is essential to prevent heart diseases. Several studies suggest that without brushing, dental plaque builds up and the gums become fragile. This results in bleeding of gums which causes the bacteria in the mouth to enter the blood where they will contribute to the formation of blood clots.
- Sex: Like all physical activity, the sex solicits the heart muscle. It boosts blood circulation and releases feel good hormones to combat stress. The other cascading benefits of sex include better sleep and reduced stress which eventually support in keeping the heart healthy.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cardiovascular death. The French Federation of Cardiology summarises their study by suggesting that consumption of 3 to 4 cigarettes a day multiplies the relative risk of a heart attack by 3. Other side effects of smoking include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, poor oxygenation of the blood, risk of coronary spasm and thrombosis.
- Salt intake: The ideal amount of salt we consume is restricted to 8-10 grams per day for men and 6-8 for women. Excess consumption of salt is directly related to high blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Hunt for the salt hidden in food which represents 70 to 80% of our consumption: bread, rusks, cold meats, cooked dishes (pizzas, quiches), preserves and sauces. Cutting down on these can help improve heart health.
- Check cholesterol regularly: Bad cholesterol or LDL tends to accumulate on the wall of the arteries and clogs the arteries. To avoid this, a cholesterol test is recommended every 5 years for young adults and every year for those above the age of 30.
- Monitoring blood pressure: There are no particular symptoms to suspect that you may have high blood pressure. However, if it is heredity, it is advisable to monitor your blood pressure regularly after the age of 40 years. This will help you manage hypertension and prevent heart disease.
- Manage stress: It is now proven that chronic stress is bad for the heart. It would even be the major causes of heart attacks after smoking and cholesterol. Not only because it accelerates the heart rate, and increases blood pressure but also because it encourages smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating junk.
- Avoid sodas: The daily consumption of soda and aerated drinks increases the risk of high cholesterol, hypertension, and obesity. These are the underlying causes for heart problems and diabetes (which also contributes to cardiovascular diseases).
- Sound sleep: It is necessary to sleep neither too much nor too little. Your body needs 6-8 hours of sound sleep. This will improve the overall functioning of the body and reduce stress.
- Go out with your friends: Solitude is the enemy of the heart. Literally as well as figuratively. Isolation is synonymous with sedentary lifestyle, weight gain and increased stress, itself responsible for smoking, poor nutrition, and high blood pressure. Hence, it is important to indulge in healthy socialising and laughing out with friends.