Congestive Heart Failure
Alternative Heart Disease Treatment
Heart Disease Prevention
How to prevent
From BUPA, UK
What is heart disease and why should I be concerned?
Heart disease is a name given to a variety of conditions that affect the
performance of the heart. Important examples of heart disease include:
--angina, in which there is poor blood circulation to the heart,
--heart attack, in which there is death of part of the heart muscle, and
--arrhythmia, in which the rate or rhythm of the heart beat is abnormal.
In the UK, heart disease kills more people, both men and women, than any
other disease. One British adult dies of heart disease every three minutes.
Your heart is the engine that drives your body. It is a powerful muscle that
pumps blood to your entire body, providing the oxygen and nutrients that you
need to live. The average human heart works at a rate of 100,000 beats a day or
an incredible 2,500 million beats over a lifetime of 70 years.
Your heart is designed to last a lifetime, but you have to do your bit to help
ensure it stays in good working order. There are many steps you can take to help
prevent heart disease from developing. Read on to find out how you can increase
your chances of having and maintaining a healthy, functioning heart.
How important is exercise for a healthy heart?
Exercise is the one of the best – and most enjoyable – ways of lowering your
chances of developing heart disease. Regular exercise helps your heart to become
stronger, so it can pump more blood around your body with less effort. Indeed,
if you exercise on a regular basis, the chance of you developing heart disease
is about half that of people who do no exercise at all. Exercise can also help
reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure (both of which can lead to heart
disease), help you to sleep better and help provide a feeling of well-being.
People of all ages can benefit from physical activity. Try to exercise at least
three to four times a week for about 30 minutes each day. If you have a busy
schedule, you can break up those 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions – it
is the total time that you exercise per day that counts. You can choose from a
wide range of activities, including brisk walking, cycling, dancing and
swimming. We know that even moderate, daily activity, such as gardening, mowing
the lawn or taking the stairs instead of the lift, can help your heart. If you
have not exercised recently, be sure to check with your doctor before starting
any exercise programme.
Should I stop smoking?
Yes. Giving up smoking not only reduces your risk of developing heart disease,
but also the risk of many other serious illnesses, like cancer and emphysema. No
matter how old you are, it is not too late to stop. As soon as you do, your
health will improve immediately. Studies show that, after five years of giving
up, the risk of developing heart disease is the same as for someone who has
Giving up smoking is not easy and it may take several tries before you succeed.
Keep in mind that plenty of help is available – nicotine patches or gum,
acupuncture and hypnotherapy are just a few of your options. Ask your doctor for
advice. Also, a number of local and national organisations and helplines can
offer you advice.
You can also call QUITline (0800 002 200) free from 9am to 11pm. This is a
national helpline that can provide sound advice and information on giving up
What about high blood pressure?
High blood pressure increases your chances of developing heart disease, but
there are usually no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, so you may not be
aware you have it. That's why you need to have your blood pressure checked by
your doctor at least once every five years.
If you have high blood pressure, it can be treated in many ways. Making changes
to your lifestyle is a first important step. Try to:
--keep at a healthy weight or lose weight, if necessary,
--reduce the amount of salt you eat,
--give up smoking,
--learn to relax and reduce stress,
--cut down on alcohol if necessary,
--exercise (see above).
If needed, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for taking it and discuss any
problems or side effects with him or her.
Why should I cut back on alcohol?
We know that people who drink heavily are more likely to die of heart disease
than those who do not. So, if you drink, do so in moderation. BUPA recommends
that a safe limit for men is no more than 3 units of alcohol per day, and for
women, no more than 2 units per day. (One unit is equal to half a pint of normal
strength beer or lager, or a single pub measure of spirits, wine or sherry.) Try
to leave two alcohol-free days a week and avoid alcohol binges. What is
important is alcohol drunk on each day, so if you have drunk no units for a week
you cannot assume it is safe to drink 21 units (for men) or 14 units (for women)
in a binge.
You may have seen recent reports that drinking in moderation (with an emphasis
on moderation) may offer some protection against heart disease. But, if you
never drink or seldom drink, do not change your habits – alcohol should not be
taken as a medicine.
What about my eating habits?
Eating well can also help prevent heart disease. No one food can provide all the
nutrition you need, so eat a variety of foods every day from the following four
--bread, other cereals and potatoes,
--fruits and vegetables,
--low-fat milk and dairy foods,
--meat, fish and alternatives such as beans and lentils.
Try to cut down on the amount of salt that you add to your food and avoid
processed foods that have a high salt content. Choose healthy cooking methods
(grill, bake, steam or microwave instead of frying), trim fat off meat and
remove skin from chicken. Most importantly, cut down on foods that contain
saturated fat, such as pies, sausages and cream. Saturated fat raises the level
of cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance found in
all animal tissues. It is essential to life and a vital part of every cell in
your body. However, when the level of cholesterol becomes too high, it can lead
to blockage of or reduction in the flow of blood through your vessels, and thus
to heart disease. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps
prevent high cholesterol levels.
Although your heart is designed to last you well for your whole life, you do
need to take care of it and adopt the healthy life-style measures discussed
above. If you need any help or advice in any of these areas you should discuss
it with your doctor, who will be able to help you.
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