A healthy heart is central to overall good health and choosing a healthy lifestyle at any age can prevent heart disease and lower the risk for a heart attack or stroke. Things that put you at higher risk for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- Being overweight
- High cholesterol
- Inactivity or not exercising
- Family history of heart disease (especially a parent or sibling)
Taking care of your heart
- Make healthy food choices
Your diet should consist mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins. Cut down heavily processed foods and sugary drinks.
- Watch your weight
Being obese or overweight is not healthy. The more weight you gain, the higher your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. Being obese also puts you at risk for breathing problems, gallbladder disease, liver disease, and even cancer.
- Be active
You don’t have to be a member of a gym or buy fancy equipment to exercise. The key is just to get up and move every day. Go for a walk. Take the stairs at work. Do some push-ups or sit-ups or other types of physical activity.
The heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it. Exercise can lower your risk of developing plaque in the arteries. Plaque is a waxy substance that can clog arteries and reduce blood flow to your heart. If plaque builds up too much, it can even block the artery. This is what causes a heart attack.
- Have regular health screenings
Have regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. These are two indicators of heart disease.
- Stop smoking
Smoking is bad for your overall health. It causes cancer and damages the lungs and the lining of your arteries. It also increases the risk of heart disease.
- Look after your gums
Don’t take gums for granted. There is a link between oral health and heart disease. In fact, periodontal disease (gum disease) has been associated with several health issues, including premature birth, arthritis, and diabetes.
Symptoms of a heart attack
- Chest discomfort
This can be pressure, tightness, squeezing, or pain in the centre of your chest. It usually lasts for more than a few minutes. Sometimes it goes away and comes back.
- Pain in one or both arms
Sometimes this pain isn’t limited to your arms. You may feel pain in your jaw, neck, back, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat