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Heart diseases also called as cardiovascular diseases include a wide spectrum of conditions which affect your heart. The diseases include blood vessel diseases, heart attack, rhythm problems, and angina. Heart diseases are currently the most common cause of death worldwide.
There are a large number of risk factors which predispose you to increased risk of heart diseases. Some of those risk factors cannot be modified (non-modifiable) and are not under our control while there are others that you can modify (modifiable) to prevent heart diseases.
While you cannot do much about non-modifiable risk factors (like age and family history) you can reduce your chances of heart disease by working on the modifiable risk factors. This include:
Smokers have more than twice the risk of heart attack as compared to nonsmokers. In fact, even nonsmokers who are exposed to constant smoke (such as living with a spouse who smokes) also have an increased risk.
What you can do: Quit smoking or never start smoking at all. If you find it hard to quit on your own, consult an expert who can walk you through the entire process.
2. Obesity and physical inactivity
You are at increased risk of heart disease if your body weight is more than 20% of the ideal weight or if you are fat and obese. The most common reason for this is physical inactivity or sedentary lifestyle.
What you can do: start exercising regularly. You should exercise for 30-45 minutes for at least 5 days/week. Even leisure activities like walking or gardening can lower the risk. You can also set a pedometer goal of 10, 000 steps a day.
3. Unhealthy diet
Taking a diet rich in saturated fats, salt, and refined sugars can significantly increase the risk of heart diseases.
Things you can do: Include a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains in your diet. Avoid taking fried food which is rich in saturated fats.
4. High blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the most common heart diseases risk factor in the western countries and adequate measures should be taken to keep it under control.
What you can do: you should keep the blood pressure under control through diet, exercise, and medications.
Diabetes itself can cause significant damage to the heart and along with other risk factors, it can have a synergistic effect.
What you can do: keep your diabetes under control by making some lifestyle changes like healthy diet, exercise, taking medicines as prescribed by your doctor and going for routine blood tests and health check-ups.
6. High cholesterol
The risk of heart disease increases as the total amount of fat or lipids in your blood increases.
What you can do: have a diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables. Start exercising regularly. Get a lipid profile test done regularly to know your lipid status. Consult a doctor if the levels are too high for lipid lowering drugs.
People who take are prone to getting stressed easily and who cannot manage their stress effectively are at much higher risk.
What you can do: de-stress yourself by indulging in hobbies or activities which you like. Try yoga or meditation or join a club or class for the company.
It is not necessary that if you have these risk factors, you will definitely develop cardiovascular disease. But, the more risk factors you have, the greater is the likelihood that you might develop these diseases. Therefore, it is important that you adopt a healthy lifestyle and take appropriate preventive measures.