Cardiovascular disease is the umbrella term for the diseases involving the heart and circulation, such, as coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease, and stroke.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally. While family history, sex, or age may affect your chances of getting the disease, your lifestyle is an essential factor in determining your risk of developing it. An unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and prolonged exposure to stress are some of the most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke. Fortunately, these are things you can control. To reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, here are some important lifestyle changes you can make.
Follow a healthy diet.
What constitutes a healthy diet? Well, let us take a look at what it is not. The typical Western diet includes a lot of red meat, dairy, and processed foods. And, research has shown that this kind of diet contributes to cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr, a leader in using nutrition to treat heart disease patients, pointed out what Dr. Lewis Kuller, Professor the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said: “All males who are 65 years and all females who are 70 who have been exposed to the traditional Western diet have cardiovascular disease and should be treated as such.”
Research has shown that a diet comprising of lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Dean Ornish, an expert in the use of nutrition and other lifestyle changes to treat various diseases, including heart disease, led a study involving 48 patients with moderate to severe coronary heart disease. They were randomised to an intensive lifestyle change group or to a usual-care control group. One of the intensive lifestyle changes the participants made was following a 10% fat, whole foods, vegetarian diet. The results of the study showed that in the experimental group, more regression of coronary atherosclerosis took place after 5 years than after 1 year in the experimental group. In the control group, on the other hand, coronary atherosclerosis continued to progress and more than twice as many cardiac events took place.
Be physically active.
If you are physically active, your chances of developing cardiovascular disease is lower than a friend of yours who isn’t. Being physically active helps you control your weight and lower your risk of getting other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Moreover, a review published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice reported that regular exercise can lower your risk of over two dozens of physical and mental health conditions, including heart disease. It is recommended that you perform 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. For instance, take 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week.
Studies also suggests that physical activity, more specifically aerobic or cardio exercise, is good for your heart. One such study was led by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D, professor of behavioural studies at Columbia University Medical Center. 46 healthy participants did moderate or high intensity aerobic exercise over a 12-week period. And, it was found that aerobic exercise can reduce inflammation, consequently lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, which are fatty build-ups in the arteries, that cause most cases of heart disease.
Avoid smoking or using tobacco.
If you smoke or use tobacco, then you may want to quit it as soon as possible. Smoking or using tobacco has been found to be one of the most significant factors for developing heart disease.
When you smoke, the lining of your arteries get damaged, which can then lead to a buildup of fatty material. This narrows your arteries, which can then cause angina, a heart attack, or a stroke. Also, the carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, which means that the amount of oxygen in your blood is reduced. As a result, your heart has to work harder to supply sufficient oxygen, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate.
Secondhand smoke can also be harmful and cause heart disease in non-smokers. This means that if you smoke, the people around you, such as your partner, children, and friends, are negatively affected as well.
Find healthy ways to manage stress.
Research has found an association between between coronary heart disease risk and stress that may have an impact on the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The more stressed you are, the more you are likely to overeat and smoke. Stress can also prevent you from getting enough quality sleep, which is also associated with higher risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart attack. As such, it is important that you find healthy ways to manage stress, such as physical activity and good forms of relaxation, such as yoga and meditation.
To sum up, cardiovascular heart disease is common and can be fatal, yet it can be prevented if we just live a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and finding health ways to manage stress are the things we can do to take control of our health and protect ourselves from the dangers of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases as a whole.