7 Essential Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Having a Heart Attack
The statistics show that in Australia someone has a heart attack every 10 minutes and as frequently as high as every 40 seconds in America!
When we have a heart attack, i.e., blocked blood flow to the heart usually caused by atherosclerosis, it can cause permanent damage and death to parts of the heart.
Whilst a heart attack is treatable, due to potentially life-threatening consequences, prevention is better than treatment.
There are many ways we can prevent or significantly reduce our risk of having a heart attack including maintaining a good lifestyle, watching our weight to reduce conditions such as hypertension, high blood sugar & cholesterol levels, and getting active for at least 30 minutes every day.
Learn 7 essential ways to reduce your risk of having a heart attack:
1) Improve diet
According to Dr Stephen Kopecky, research has consistently shown that adopting a Mediterranean well-balanced diet e.g eating fresh unprocessed foods, increasing the amounts of fruit and vegetables, olive oil, and nuts, has shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer's, and many other inflammatory conditions.
Too much salt in our diet can lead to hypertension. Excess salt in our bodies encourages water retention. If we eat too much, the extra water in our blood means there is extra pressure on our blood vessel walls, raising our blood pressure.
2) Reduce blood pressure (BP)
The heart beats about 100,000 times a day and pumps its own energy supply. The higher the pressure the more energy the heart has to exert to get the same number of beats per day. Short term the heart can sustain this level of energy expenditure, but it soon takes its toll and something has to give.
BP is determined by both the amount of blood our heart pumps and the amount of resistance of blood flow there is in our arteries. The amount of blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher our blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) develops over several years. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases our risk of heart attacks, stroke, and kidney problems.
The good news is once we know we have it we can get it under control either through lifestyle changes and/or medications.
3) Prevent/reduce overweight/obesity
The heart has to pump blood through several miles more blood vessels when someone is carrying excess weight/fat around their body which puts increasing pressure on the heart to perform. 1lb of fat = 5 miles of blood vessels. So the heart pumps 100,000 times a day and every excess lb of fat means the body has to pump an extra 500,000 miles.
4) Stop smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.
Smoking raises blood pressure, decreases physical activity tolerance, and lowers blood levels of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol which all increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease, damage to blood vessels, increasing risk of plaques and clots, and reducing blood oxygen levels.
Smoking cessation significantly improves cardiovascular function, and quality of life and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
5) Increase physical activity
According to Dr Stephen Kopecky, 'fitness trumps fatness' when it comes to lowering our risk of having a heart attack so if you’re normal weight but unfit the heart doesn’t get the benefits of being a normal weight.
6) Prevent diabetes
A heart attack, along with a stroke, is the main cause of death among people with diabetes2. Those with diabetes are up to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who don’t3.
Over time, high blood sugar levels leading to diabetes can damage the blood vessels in our hearts, making them more likely to develop fatty deposits.
The longer we have diabetes, the higher the chances are that we will develop heart disease. Around 30% of people with Type 2 diabetes also have CVD1 and at least 50% of the people who attend the emergency room for a heart attack also have diabetes.
If we have diabetes, our chances of dying from heart disease are actually the same as someone who has already had a heart attack2.
We're also more likely to have other health problems that can cause heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or being overweight.
7) Manage stress
Stress is a risk factor for precipitating acute coronary events. High stress can bring on a heart attack by increasing adrenaline levels, constricting the arteries and preventing blood flow.
Having better ways to relax and destress such as using hypnosis, and learning mindful ways to be more aware of stressors and how to prevent and manage them, will help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.
1. Thomas, M.C. and P.J. Nestel, Management of dyslipidaemia in patients with type 2 diabetes in Australian primary care. Med J Aust, 2007. 186(3): p. 128-30.
2. Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, The dark heart of type 2 diabetes. 2018, Baker IDI: Melbourne.
3. Shaw, J., Tanamas, S., eds. (2012). Diabetes: the silent pandemic and its impact on Australia. Melbourne: Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute
Need help to reduce some, or all, of these risk factors to lower your chance of having a heart attack? Have a chat with Karen to assess how hypnotherapy could help you: https://calendly.com/karenbartle/hypnosis-initial-chat