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February 14 2020

7 Healthy Strategies to Help Prevent Heart Disease

It’s common knowledge that the heart is one of the vital organs essential for survival, so it’s crucial to give it the utmost care. Unfortunately, many still contract heart disease, particularly ischemic heart disease, which is the narrowing of the arteries that can ultimately lead to a heart attack. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this type of cardiovascular disease has been one of the top causes of death worldwide over the last 15 years.
Knowing the answers to questions like what causes heart disease, what treatments are available, and what healthy habits can help avoid such conditions is essential in preventing one of the so-called deadliest killers from afflicting you or your loved ones.
Learn about heart disease and more in the infographic posted below:


Treatments for Heart Diseases

There are two primary ways of treating heart disease: medication and surgery.
  • Medication

In the initial stages, different medications can help prevent blood clots and control the progression of the heart condition. Medications are also useful in treating underlying conditions, such as diabetes, so that they do not affect the heart. Doctors may prescribe the following medications:
  • Statins - Use these to reduce bad cholesterol (also known as low-density lipoprotein or LDL) and increase good cholesterol (also known as high-density lipoprotein or HDL).
  • Blood thinners - Their purpose is to reduce the risk of blood clots that may reach the heart, lungs, or brain.
  • Beta-blockers - These drugs help the heart rest as they lower the heart rate, lessen the force of the heartbeat, and reduce blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors - These medications help relax the blood vessels and reduce the impact of heart failure.
(Read more about common problems affecting the heart in our previous article.)
  • Surgery

If the prescribed medication doesn’t produce the desired results, the doctor may recommend any of the following surgical procedures for a more intensive heart disease treatment:
  • Coronary artery bypass - To allow blood to flow and steer clear of blocked arteries, the blood vessels are re-routed. This procedure is vital in supplying oxygen to the heart while avoiding damaged or blocked blood vessels.
  • Angioplasty - This surgery involves inserting a balloon catheter to expand narrowed blood vessels that are restricting the flow of blood to the heart.
  • Valve repair or replacement - A mechanical valve may be used or one may be developed from living tissue to fix a dysfunctional heart valve.

Heart Disease Prevention

These key factors can help keep the heart healthy and strong:

1. Healthy diet

Poor diet is associated with almost half of deaths related to cardiovascular or heart disease, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.  

To protect your heart, your diet should be composed of meals with less sodium, sugar, and certain kinds of fat. Both saturated fat (found in both red and processed meat, and full-fat dairy products) and trans fat (found in fried fast food, baked goods, and chips) tend to raise cholesterol levels, which may put you at risk for developing heart disease or stroke.
A heart-friendly diet includes more of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, seafood, low-fat dairy items, and healthy fats such as olive oil. These types of food have lower levels of calories and sugar.

2. Physical activity

Daily physical activity is a must in heart disease prevention as it helps in weight control. It’s also effective in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can make you twice as likely to have heart disease since high blood glucose levels can increase the amount of plaque that prevents blood from flowing to the heart.
Ideally, it should be 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity daily, such as brisk walking, running, or working out at the gym.

3. Quality sleep

Most people need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep to function properly, although some may need more or fewer hours of sleep. If you are regularly sleep-deprived, you may find yourself having an increased heart rate or blood pressure, which can strain your heart further.
Find the best time to sleep and stick to it so that the body will get used to sleeping and waking up at the same time each day. Make sure there is nothing in the bedroom that may disrupt you from your sleep, such as bright lights and loud sounds.

4. Stop smoking

Avoiding cigarette or tobacco smoke can significantly drop the chances of falling ill since smoking produces the poisonous gas, carbon monoxide (CO). This chemical is responsible for reducing the amount of oxygen that travels through the blood to your heart, and then to your brain and the rest of the body.
Being exposed to harmful smoke can make you susceptible to heart disease as well. Even if you are a secondhand smoker, you are also at risk of heart-related disorders, so be sure to avoid being exposed to CO.

5. Weight control

Excess fat, especially around the abdomen, can lead to problems involving your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes—all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
To know if you have a healthy weight, you need to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which takes into consideration the ratio between your height and weight. A BMI of 25 or higher means you have excess amounts of body fat, so you should consider trimming your weight to an ideal range, which is around 18.5 to 24.9.

6. Stress management

If you are prone to stress, turn to healthy ways of coping with it. These may include meditation, going for a walk, and other relaxation exercises. Avoid smoking, overeating or binge eating, or drinking alcohol as these activities do not help in strengthening your heart.

7. Heart screening

Monitor these three things to maintain or improve your heart’s health:
  • Blood pressure (BP). Starting at age 18, you should have your blood pressure measured every two years, but once you reach your 40s, annual blood pressure testing is recommended to determine whether your BP is higher than average.
  • Cholesterol. Screening for cholesterol levels is needed by the time you turn 20 years old and should be repeated at least every five years. However, your doctor may recommend screening on a more frequent basis if there is a history of heart disease in the family.
  • Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes screening starts at age 45, even if your weight is normal and you do not exhibit risk factors, such as family history. Otherwise, you need to get yourself screened as early as possible.

Take Good Care of Your Heart

Heart disease is a leading cause of death globally, but there are things you can do on your own or with the help of your doctor to prevent it. By taking good care of your heart, you can live a longer and healthier life that you can spend with your family and loved ones.
Learn more about heart ailments and proper medical treatment from your doctor at Makati Medical Center.