Heart attack. The words alone can send a chill down even the strongest man’s spine, and with good reason.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for Americans. Men have a greater risk of heart attack at a younger age than women. But the risk increases for women as they near menopause and, eventually, surpasses that of men.
For all that we have romanticized it in song and fable, the heart is just a muscle about the size of your fist, but a most vital muscle it is. Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of life-sustaining blood through your body in the average day. When it stops working right, so do you.
If the nicest thing we can say about someone is that he has a good heart, the most important thing we can say is that he has a healthy heart.
Your heart will beat 2.8 billion times by the time you’re 70. But you shouldn’t take any of its beats for granted.
Granted, you can do little about your age, gender, or family history. However, you probably can decrease your risk of heart attack by changing your lifestyle in the following areas:
- Keep tabs on your cholesterol levels
To control your cholesterol, avoid saturated fat, eat fewer calories, and try to eat foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables and fruits. If your cholesterol is very high, drugs to lower it may be an option for you.
- Ask your doctor about aspirin
Daily intake of aspirin may reduce your risk of heart attack by thinning your blood and preventing clots from forming. However, you should talk with your doctor before doing so because aspirin is not safe for everyone.
- Drink moderately
Studies show that one drink a day (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor) may have a protective effect on your heart. However, the effects are more beneficial if you are middle-aged or older and have suffered a heart attack or stroke or already have cardiovascular disease.
Regular exercise is good for you because it helps reduce stress, cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and excess weight, and it can make your heart stronger, leading to a lower pulse rate. But overdoing exercise isn’t a good thing, especially weight-lifting exercises that can trigger heart attacks. Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Because stress is such a factor in heart disease, eliminating or decreasing it can do wonders for your cardiovascular health.
- Control your blood pressure
Your heart has to work harder to push blood through your body when your blood pressure is high. This causes your heart to enlarge and can speed up atherosclerosis. Fortunately, by reducing your diastolic blood pressure by only 2mm Hg (millimeters per mercury), you can decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. The average healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg.
- Stop smoking
Smoking is harmful to your cardiovascular health. Smoking also clogs your arteries and in the process, raises the blood pressure in those clogged arteries. This condition helps to double the heart attack risk for smokers compared with non-smokers. Therefore, as soon as you stop, your body immediately starts to bounce back and improve your cardiovascular health.
Raymond Lee is one of the foremost experts in the health and fitness industry and is the Founder of Bodyfixes Group specializing in body health, muscle development and dieting. He is currently the author of the latest edition of "Neck Exercises and Workouts." Visit http://www.bodyfixes.com for more information.