It is never too late to start taking care of your heart health, as preventing heart and cardiovascular diseases is a wise move that will pay off the rest of your life. It should also be noted that, as globalisation and technology alter people’s socioeconomic and working structures, people’s lives are increasingly surrounded by work and responsibilities.
People’s cardiovascular health is deteriorating as a result of a lack of exercise, a poor diet and other unhealthy habits. In Malaysia, heart disease is still the leading cause of death. According to Mohd Yusrizal bin Ab. Razak in the <Statistics on Causes of Death, Malaysia, 2020>, the reported heart disease has occupied 15% of total medically-certified deaths in 2019, resulting in 16,375 deaths due to heart disease alone.
However, heart disease is preventable through healthy life choices. It’s important to remember that the choices you make in everyday life have direct or indirect consequences on your overall well-being, especially your cardiovascular health.
There are several simple yet effective ways to maintain or improve your cardiovascular health. Anyone of any age can benefit from taking these simple steps to keep their heart healthy throughout their lives.
Get More Exercise
Being physically active is a crucial step toward maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Studies show that people who are not very active are more likely to have a heart attack than people who are. To maintain good cardiovascular health, it is recommended that everyone have at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
Exercising is important not only for improving blood flow, but also for controlling body weight. Having excess weight will pose a number of health risks, such as exerting excessive pressure on the arterial walls, causing the heart to work harder. Also, being overweight will increase one’s risk of developing other diseases such as hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Begin taking care of your cardiovascular health today by hitting the gym, sweating it out and making sure to get in enough active minutes every week.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Excessive drinking can have serious long-term health consequences, affecting cardiovascular health by causing high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and also cardiomyopathy, a symptom that damages the heart muscles. Heavy drinking will also lead to obesity and disrupts the body’s ability to regulate inflammation.
In turn, excessive inflammation can worsen alcohol-related organ damage. The good news is that one can simply avoid all of this by sticking to the guidelines for moderate alcohol drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines moderate drinking as up to 4 alcoholic drinks for men and 3 for women in any single day, with a weekly limit of 14 drinks for men and 7 drinks for women.
Avoid Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease; this is also true for light smokers who smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes per day. The risk of cardiovascular disease increases in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes smoked.
Study shows that cigarettes with a particular blend of tobacco with low nicotine contents still puts smokers at the same risk of developing cardiovascular disease as smoking regular cigarettes.
Non-smokers should be worried about this too if they are exposed to too much secondhand smoke, as they are just as likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes.
Practice Stress Management
Practicing effective stress management can help you avoid various complications with your cardiovascular health. Stress can be categorised into two types: physical stress caused by having insufficient sleep or illness, and emotional stress caused by work or everyday obligations and pressures.
Long-term stress can cause the body to secrete hormone cortisol, a chemical that aids in stress relief. However, high levels of the hormone cortisol can introduce common risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as increased blood cholesterol, blood sugar, blood level, as well as triglyceride levels.
Always be mindful of your stress levels and engage in stress-reducing activities such as swimming, yoga, or any other sports.
Our diet has a significant impact on our cardiovascular health. Starting with portion size, overloading the plate will easily cause one to over-consume the calories needed for the day; excessive calories that are not used up will lead to weight gain, which is a major risk of heart health.
High consumption of saturated fat, which is commonly found in butter and baking goods, increases the risk of cholesterol elevation. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
On the other hand, fruits and vegetables that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fibers can contribute to help lower blood cholesterol levels as well as rejuvenating the body with minerals like Zinc and Selenium. Consuming more fish and vegetables like spinach, walnuts, and flaxseed with healthy fats like Omega 3 can also improve your heart health.
Regular Health Screening
To prevent cardiovascular disease, also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), you need to manage your risk factors such as high blood pressure, high total cholesterol and high blood glucose.
But how do you know which risk factors you have? The best way to find out is through screening tests and regular doctor visits.
The cardiovascular system serves as a critical function for the body’s overall functionality, so taking care of your cardiovascular health has become one of the important key factors to your overall health.
Take care of your heart well!