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Heart Disease

Heart Attack

Congestive Heart Failure

Generic Drugs

Alternative Heart Disease Treatment

Heart Disease 

Heart Disease Prevention

How to prevent heart disease

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 never smoked.

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 smoking.

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 food groups:

--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.

Summary

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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