What Can Be Done to Help Prevent Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a group of diseases that affect the heart and can lead to heart failure. Some examples are coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart valve defects, high blood pressure and diabetic heart disease.

You cannot prevent all forms of the condition, but you can definitely influence the progression and outcome of some of them. In coronary heart disease, the blood vessels leading from and to the heart, which carry oxygen to all parts of the body, have become blocked with a fatty substance. This limits blood flow and can lead to heart attacks. Both coronary heart disease and high blood pressure can be at least partly controlled by proper diet and exercise.

There are some heart disease factors that are beyond your control. These include age, ethnicity, sex and genetics. After age 45, the disease risk for men rises. The same is true for women over 55. Before the age of 55 or so, women's estrogen levels have a protective effect on the heart. African-Americans have more heart disease than white people and Hispanics. If heart disease runs in your family, then you are at a greater risk yourself. Here is some more information to help you protect your heart.

1 - Review Your Dietary Habits

A diet heavy in saturated and trans fats can contribute to high blood lipid levels. Lipid is another word for fat. These high blood fat levels can lead to high levels of LDL cholesterol. High LDL levels are a risk factor for coronary heart disease because they contribute to the formation of deposits of fats within the artery walls. Fish is a better choice than red meat. It contains far less saturated fat. It also provides the healthy Omega 3 oils your body needs. Add plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Eliminate processed foods, sweetened drinks and refined sugar. Choose non-fat or low-fat dairy products. You will likely find that cooking from scratch, instead of buying processed and frozen foods, will save you money at the market, too. Processed foods aren't healthy for your heart or your budget.

2 - Get Enough Exercise

You don't have to join a gym or punish your joints with jogging. In fact, you can get plenty of good exercise for free. Start a walking program. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking at least every other day. You must walk fast enough to elevate your heart rate by fifty percent. In other words, if your resting heart rate is 80, you would want to raise that to 120 while you are walking. To take your resting heart rate, place your index finger against the inside of your wrist or the side of your neck. Never use your thumb to take your pulse. You will feel a pulsing sensation. Count each pulse while timing them for 15 seconds. Multiply by four. To make sure you're raising your heart rate enough while walking, stop to take your pulse at intervals throughout your exercise period. If you do choose to join a gym, be careful of their contracts and subscriptions. Gyms will often overcharge.

3 - Get Regular Physical Exams

Visit your doctor as often as he or she recommends. Depending upon your age, your doctor may recommend certain tests. Cholesterol levels should be measured, especially after the age of 40. Everyone of all ages should have their blood pressure checked at every doctor visit. Although more common as people age, high blood pressure can happen to anyone. If detected, it must be treated before it can cause damage to the heart and kidneys. Your doctor may also order blood tests, a chest X-ray and an ECG, or electrocardiogram. This test evaluates your heart's electrical signals for any problems with heart rhythm.

4 - Quit Smoking

Smoking raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. Smoking also reduces your body's oxygen levels. This causes stress on your heart because it must work harder to provide enough oxygen to the body's tissues. The carbon monoxide present in smoke replaces some of your body's oxygen supply, forcing the heart to work harder still. Toxic chemicals in tobacco can also damage your heart and its surrounding blood vessels. This can lead to a narrowing of these vessels, putting you at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack. After you quit smoking, think of what you could do with all the money you will save.