Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. In the next 10 years, the number of these deaths is expected to multiply and exceed 20 million deaths per year. Noteworthy patients with heart diseases create a huge financial burden on the already hardworking health system. Many of these deaths could have been avoided with simple lifestyles changes such as:
Daily exercise can reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. According to European guidelines, the goal should be either 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or 75 minutes a week of strenuous aerobic activity, such as running. Two or more days a week of strength training are also recommended.
2. Eat healthy
A healthy diet protects our heart, improves our body weight and protects us from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The main food categories of the Mediterranean diet are high fiber from vegetables and fruits, beans or other legumes, poultry and fish, low-fat or no-fat dairy foods, whole grains and olive oil. You should limit the saturated fats that are found mainly in red meat but also the trans fats that are found in processed foods.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. In addition to the calories it adds to your body, it predisposes to cardiovascular disease and arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation. According to the guidelines, it is allowed to consume 14 units of alcohol per week. One unit of alcohol corresponds to about 80 mL of wine or 250 mL of beer or 30mL of alcoholic beverages.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Even a small reduction in body weight has a great effect on the physiology of the body. In addition to lowering cholesterol and lowering blood pressure, you will also have immediate effects on your psychology.
The ideal weight is usually determined by the body mass index (BMI) which is calculated from the height and weight of the patient. Overweight is considered someone who has a BMI over 25 while obese is considered the patient who has a BMI over 30.We can also use the ratio of the waist circumference and the hip circumference (WHR ratio). The risk of heart disease is higher if the measurement for men is above 0.9 and for women above 0.8.
4. Quit smoking
Numerous studies have shown that the components of cigarettes have a direct detrimental effect on both the heart and coronary arteries as well as the lungs. It is important to emphasize that the beneficial elements from smoking cessation appear as early as the first month (drop in blood pressure, improved oxygenation) and after a year without smoking the risk of cardiovascular events is reduced by about half.
5. Sleep well
Lack of sleep predisposes to an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and depression. On average, adults should sleep at least 6-7 hours daily. If you feel tired all day, with headaches, memory problems or easy fatigue, you should inform your personal doctor to assess the possibility of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, a condition that may increase the risk of heart disease.
6. Manage stress
Stress can cause high blood pressure, depression and make people prone to bad habits such as excessive smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and overeating. These conditions, as mentioned above, predispose to increased cardiovascular risk. There are many options for managing stress today, such as exercising, meditating, and seeing a psychologist.
7. Check your blood pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease and stroke. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly and adjust your lifestyle and habits to prevent you from developing high blood pressure.
People over the age of 40 should have at least one annual measurement of their blood pressure . In younger people the measurement can be done every two years. Normal values are a systolic blood pressure below 140mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure below 80mmHg as measured in the doctor’s office.
8. Check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels
High cholesterol levels have been associated, through multiple studies, with the development of atherosclerotic plaque and coronary heart disease. Elevated triglycerides levels have also been blamed for the increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 should have their cholesterol levels checked at least every 1 to 2 years. Young adults and children over the age of 12 if they have a predisposition or family history of high cholesterol can be tested every 2-5 years. LDL-cholesterol levels should be below 115 mg/ dl in the general population and even lower in patients with a history of myocardial infarction (<70 mg/dl).
9. Control type 2 diabetes
The main risk factors for diabetes are obesity and family history. Prolonged rise in blood glucose has a direct effect on the heart vessels by producing oxidative radicals and causing inflammation leading to accelerated atherosclerotic disease.
It is recommended to be tested for diabetes from the age of 45, with a review every three years. Regular exercise and proper nutrition eliminate the risk of developing diabetes. Normal fasting glucose levels in serum are below 100mg / dl. The target of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1) in diabetic patients is below 6.5-7%.
10. Take your medication as directed by your doctor
The faithful implementation of the instructions by your doctor in combination with the correct planning of your medication is the most important element of the whole strategy, to reduce or even eliminate any future cardiovascular events.