Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the western world, millions of people die from it in the US every single year and do you know what, many of them don’t even know that they have it!
The heart is a muscle, it’s kind of like an engine pumping the blood around your body delivering oxygen to your vital organs through veins and arteries, keeping everything circulating nicely. The heart has its own vital supply of blood from a network of blood vessels which are on the surface of the heart, the coronary arteries. If these arteries become blocked by a build up of fatty substances the blood supply to the heart will become restricted and eventually, if it becomes completely blocked you will end up with a heart attack.
Fortunately, there are things which we can do to drastically reduce the chances of us suffering from heart disease. Basically there are two separate reasons for heart disease, the first is hereditary (nothing much you can do about that then – WRONG), because the second is life style, so even if heart disease runs in your family (sniff – noses run in ours) then you can still reduce the risk of suffering from heart disease if you change your life style.
High risk factors of heart diseases are:
- high levels of cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- high blood uric levels
- diabetes and other metabolic disorders
Heart Disease – Reducing the Risks
If you live a healthy and active life style you can drastically reduce the risks of becoming just another statistic in the already far too many numbers of people dying or suffering from heart disease. What can you do?
- Diet – a poor diet is one of the leading factors contributing to heart disease. If you make sure that you eat healthily with a balanced diet including lots of veggies, (green leafy ones are the best), plenty of fruit and cut back on the starchy, sugary, fatty snacks (I know – they taste so good) then you really will soon begin to reap the benefits in many ways.
- Exercise– ok, nobody is suggesting that you run the next half marathon, that will probably kill you quicker than the heart disease if you’re not used to it, but moderate, regular exercise really is good for you. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the shops instead of jumping in the car, treat yourself to a bicycle, go swimming, walk the dog, walk somebody elses dog, go dancing, do whatever you like but do SOMETHING. You never know, pretty soon you’ll probably start to enjoy it. If you do at least 30 minutes exercise 5 times a week that should do for starters, but exercise is pretty addictive (so they tell me) and once you start you’ll love it so much you’ll want to do more and more. Hiking and camping are great ways to get back in shape.
- Smoking – if you smoke, stop it, and if you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking is a serious no no for lots of reasons, and risk of heart disease is definitely one of them.
- Diabetes – if you are a diabetic you must make sure that you keep a close watch over your sugar levels.
- Weight – right, well if you follow the first couple of steps this one should come naturally – if you’re overweight you should really seek advice about a suitable weight loss program. A good diet and regular exercise are certainly a great way to start.
- Stress – if your life is stressful, change it. OK, you might not be able to change the stress, but you can certainly learn how to deal with it more effectively. Take a look at some methods of stress management, if you’re getting stressed try some deep breathing techniques, or go for a walk. See how lots of these ideas tie in together – it’s called maintaining a healthy lifestyle!
High Blood Pressure – How High is High?
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease, but how high is high, and how do you know if your blood pressure is too high? Well, first things first, how high is high?
Blood pressure is measured with two different numbers, you know when the medic sucks in his cheeks and says something like “150 over 95” – well, that’s too high. The upper number (systolic) should be less than 120 if you’re anywhere near normal (although nobody could ever describe me as normal for anything else, my blood pressure is usually pretty good), right, and the bottom number (diastolic) should be less than 80. So, if your blood pressure is 120 over 80 that’s perfect.
- Prehypertension – if your systolic number is between 120 – 139, or your diastolic number is 80 – 89. That’s nothing to worry about but you should keep an eye on it!
- Stage 1 High Blood Pressure – if your systolic number is between 140 – 159, or your diastolic number is 90 – 99. This is getting pretty serious, you should seek medical help and indulge in a few of those lifestyle changes I’ve already told you about.
- Stage 2 High Blood Pressure – if your systolic number is 160 or higher, and the diastolic number is 100 or higher you are at serious risk and need to do something about it NOW before it’s too late.
High Blood Pressure – How Do You Know?
High blood pressure and heart disease are often referred to as the “silent killers” ‘cos people don’t even know that they’ve got them, but there are a great range of blood pressure cuffs available on the market which are pretty reliable, easy to use and can help you to keep an eye on things from the comfort of your own home. Anyone who has had blood pressure problems in the past really ought to treat themselves to blood pressure cuff, in fact, everybody would benefit from keeping an eye on their blood pressure, they’re not expensive and could save your life. Go on, treat yourself.