Some risk factors for heart attacks can be controlled with simple, everyday solutions. About 790,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. According to the American Heart Association, of these, 114,000 will die. Unfortunately, once you have had a heart attack, your chances of having another one is higher. Heart attacks are one of the many complications of cardiovascular disease, but experts say that lifestyle modifications can help reduce your risk.
“Risks such as genetic predisposition and male gender are some things you cannot change,” Dr. Kevin Campbell, MD, a leading cardiologist, tells Newsmax. “But you can manage or reduce these risks by either preventing or treating other controllable risk factors.”
Here are some tips:
- Get a flu shot. According to Eat This, Not That!, adults over the age of 65 are more likely to suffer a heart attack from flu complications.
- Have an annual physical. Most people visit the doctor only when something is wrong, but cardiologists recommend getting a yearly exam to nip any potential problems in the bud.
- Step it up. The American Heart Association recommends at least 75 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a week to keep your heart healthy. Dr. Roger Blumenthal, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine tells Eat This, Not That! that he walks for three miles a day — about 7,500 steps — while making his rounds. He tracks his steps on his pedometer. There are also apps for smartphones that can calculate how many steps you take during the day.
- Reduce stress. Chronic stress and anxiety can take a toll on your heart’s health. Arteries tighten and blood pressure soars, says cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra. “I always suspected emotions are a hidden risk element for heart attacks and we now have a name for it,” he adds. “It’s called ‘broken heart syndrome’ and it is a very real risk factor.” He authored a book called Heartbreak and Heart Disease: A Mind/body Prescription for Healing the Heart, which advises people to focus on positive emotions and offers ways to reduce stress such as yoga and meditation or prayer.
- Limit red meat and processed food. Dr. Gabe Mirkin says in his best-selling book, The Healthy Heart Miracle, that limiting red meat, fried foods, and sugar, avoiding alcohol, and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce inflammation that leads to heart disease. It can also help you lose excess weight, another risk factor for heart attacks.
- Brush your teeth. Research finds that brushing your teeth three or more times daily can boost cardiovascular health according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
- Eat heart-healthy fats. Consume nuts, avocados, and fatty fish to get omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. This type of unsaturated fat lowers inflammation in the body that is one of the causes of heart disease, according to Eat This, Not That!
- Reduce your sugar intake. Cardiologist Dr. Barbara Hudson Roberts of Brown University says that very often foods labelled “low-fat” are chock full of sugar. “Sugar is your enemy so phase it out and learn the many names it can be called to fool you,” she says. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who are 25% of their daily calories as sugar were two time more apt to suffer fatal heart disease than those who consumed only 10%.
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