Coronary heart disease, also known as atherosclerosis, occurs when the arteries supplying the heart with oxygen-rich blood are narrowed by a buildup of fatty deposits (atheroma). If your arteries become too narrow, your heart won’t be able to receive the oxygen it needs, leading to pain known as angina. If one of these deposits breaks off, it can cause a blood clot to form in the artery, cutting off oxygen supply to the heart and triggering a heart attack.
Use Some Muscle
The heart is a muscle and like any other muscle in the body, it needs exercise to stay in good shape. An active lifestyle will ensure a stronger heart, as well as lowering blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart attacks. The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week for optimum hearth health.
A diet high in saturated fat is a leading cause of coronary heart disease. Switching to low-fat dairy products and leaner cuts of meat is a hassle-free way of cutting down, and eating plenty of whole grains, oily fish, fruits and vegetables will ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need. A recent study has shown that even blueberries—known to be high in antioxidants—could have a direct impact on reducing blood pressure and improving heart health, yet more reason to strive for your five-a-day.
Smoking and excessive drinking are detrimental to our health in general, but particularly to heart health. Rates of cardiovascular disease are much higher in smokers, and your risk level will, on average, drop to half of that of a smoker within one year of giving up. Drinking alcohol in moderation will also reduce atheroma deposits in the arteries, as well as contributing to overall health.
High sodium levels are directly linked to high blood pressure, a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Unfortunately, most of us consume too much salt, and although it’s easy to reduce our intake at home, we also need to be vigilant about checking nutrition labels on processed foods. As a guideline, if a product contains more than 1.5g of salt per 100g, it is considered to have a high sodium content and should only be eaten in moderation.
This may be easier said than done, but high stress levels are known to contribute to high blood pressure which is detrimental to your heart. If you feel that you are under a lot of stress, taking time to relax will be beneficial not only for your mental wellbeing but also for your heart. How you choose to combat stress is a personal choice, but for many people a walk outdoors, exercise and meditation are effective ways of lowering stress levels.
Know Your Risk for Heart Disease
Although heart disease affects both men and women, men tend to develop the condition at an earlier age, which means they need to be particularly careful. Diabetes, high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure all increase your risk, and if you know that one of these applies to you, it is best to seek advice from your GP. They might offer you medication such as statins or a daily aspirin to lower your risk of a heart attack. Even if you already suffer from angina, making lifestyle changes and taking the correct medication can allow you to live an ordinary and healthy life.