10 Tips to Prevent Heart Disease And Stroke
- Monitor your cholesterol (blood lipids).
High or abnormal blood lipids (fats) are a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Your blood lipids include the triglycerides, HDL (good cholesterol; also known as “Healthy cholesterol”) and LDL (bad cholesterol; also known as “Lousy cholesterol”). The higher your HDL and the lower your LDL, the better are your chances for a longer healthy life. There are mainly 3 factors that determine the amount of cholesterol in your blood: the amount absorbed from the intestinal tract (some from what you consume, but a lot more from the cholesterol produced by the liver and excreted into the digestive tract), the amount produced by the liver (this is mainly genetic), and finally, age – because your cholesterol raises with age. If you are at risk, and you need to lower the LDL or to raise your HDL, medication is almost always necessary. The ideal ratio of total cholesterol divided by HDL cholesterol is 3.0. You might need diet as therapy If the total cholesterol divided by HDL cholesterol is higher than 3.0. In general, the problem with diet is that it can only decrease total blood cholesterol by about 10 percent. If you have elevated Lp(a) which is a rare abnormal cholesterol that increases the risk, or a strong family history, drug therapy is usually needed.
- Take responsibility for your health.
The major cause of death in America is cardiovascular disease, responsible for 34 percent of deaths, almost all of them premature and mainly sudden. This has decreased from 40 percent just 4 decades ago, mainly because of the treatment of common risk factors. Your risk increases dramatically, if you have diabetes. The best prevention against stroke and heart disease is to understand the treatment options and risks. Ignorance or misinformation is the greatest risk. So, take responsibility for your health.
- Don’t smoke or expose yourself to second – hand smoke
The evidence is stunning because cigarette smoking and second – hand exposure to smoke increases the risks of peripheral vascular disease, lung disease, heart disease and stroke.
- Stay informed: Science changes constantly.
The only thing that is constant is change. This is especially true for medicine because new insights and new techniques are being developed constantly. Do not believe every piece of “scientific information” you find in the advertisements or media. Due to a lack of a sufficient number of participants, a great number of research studies that make it into scientific publications are designed poorly or yield data that are not representative. Keep in mind that many studies are financed or sponsored by companies or individuals that have interest in gaining positive or negative results. The situation that is quite confusing and happens often is when scientific studies yield different or even contradicting results.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
Hypertension or widely known as high blood pressure, is known as “the silent killer” because it goes without symptoms in most individuals. High blood pressure causes wear and tear of your blood vessel’s delicate inner lining. The higher your blood pressure (BP) is, the greater your risk is for getting this condition. The risk starts to increase from a pressure of 115/70 mmHg and doubles for each 10 mmHg of increase in systolic (the larger number) and 5 mmHg increase in the diastolic (the smaller number). Increasing age and heredity raises the risks. Measuring your blood pressures at home gives you more accurate results than having the blood pressure measured at a physician’s office. Get a cuff meter, it is worth the investment.
For some individuals that suffer from “white coat” hypertension it is best not to rely only on the readings at your doctor’s office because their BP rises only when they are at the doctor’s office. Others are “masking” hypertension – their BP is higher when not in the doctor’s office. That is why prognosis is best related to home BP. But you should not use wrist or finger units, for home blood pressure readings – only regular upper arm units.
- Know your risks
Age is the most influential risk factor for cardiovascular disease – the older you get, the bigger your risk is. The second important thing is your genetic make – up. Even though everyone is excited by the scientific progress in genomics research, conclusive gene tests are still in their beginning stage. There is a saying in the medicinal circles, “A good family history is a poor man’s gene test.” We have long known that if your relatives, grandparents, parents or other were afflicted with or died of diabetes, stroke or heart disease, your risk is much bigger.
- Pick your pills wisely.
Patients want to be empowered to take responsibility for their own health, which is why there is a great interest in alternative medicine. However, many patients are reaching for alternative medicines because of the way they are marketed and advertised. It doesn’t mean that if a substance is “natural”, it is health benefit. A simple example is arsenic, nobody with a healthy mind would take arsenic simply because it is “natural.” It is very important to know that research data are often lacking for vitamins and supplements, alternative medications, none of which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Do we ever reach for alternative medicines? Occasionally we do! The major risk with many alternative medications is that even though the patient thinks they are doing something to improve their health, when in fact they are not doing anything. To date, none of the vitamins have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, although some of them have been shown to possibly help with some conditions. There are some rare exceptions, such as niacin (vitamin B) and fish oils. It is also important to note that high doses of some vitamins may counteract or interfere with the beneficial effects of some prescription drugs.
- Limit the intake of your calories.
Remember fat diets are not effective for anyone, if any of them are, we all would be on THAT one, wouldn’t we? The obesity rate in American citizens is alarming, and contributing to a near epidemic of diabetes, which is a cardiovascular disease. If you are suffering from diabetes, your risk for a stroke or heart disease is the same as someone who already had a heart attack. Consuming more calories than your body can burn causes obesity. The major risk is abdominal obesity. The amounts of sugars and portion sizes in the American diet have dramatically increased over the past 20 – 30 years. And at the same time, the daily amount of exercise has been decreasing. It is good advice to “drink slim” which means to consume more water, coffee and tea. Before you start eating check your portion size and get up from the table before you are “full”.
- Make exercise a daily habit
The obesity epidemic in Americans is contributed by the lack of exercise. Studies show that walking at least 2 miles a day is optimal for overall health, and you don’t have to walk those 2 miles all at once. Exercising does more than burning calories, it also activates the genes that are beneficial for your health in many other ways. Plus, one of the best treatments for anxiety and depression is exercise. However, exercise alone cannot reduce or control your weight – you must also change your diet completely.
- Reduce stress.
Stress leads to cardiovascular disease and, if the stress is severe, it can cause a sudden heart attack or even death. There are plenty of options that help reduce stress, such as adequate sleep, volunteering or attending religious services, regular exercise, striving for a good marriage and of course laughing. Watching TV can only aggravate stress, not relieve it. Also, try your best to avoid people and situations that make you angry or anxious.