Prevention first

Prevention is better than a cure

There are six main risk factors for developing heart disease: your age, family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Men are at higher risk over the age of 45 and woman after 55 or whenever they go through menopause.

Prevention is the key to avoiding a heart attack. Take up a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting regular exercise, eating healthily and not smoking. Factor these simple strategies into your life for a lifetime healthy heart.

There is no one fix to prevent heart disease so a balanced lifestyle is essential.


The simplest form of exercise is walking and everyone should include this into his or her daily routine. Think of using the stairs rather than taking lifts and escalators. For short journeys try walking instead of taking the car, it is healthier and will also help reduce your carbon footprint.

At work

Getting regular exercise is important especially if you do a desk bound job. Our bodies are designed to move and not sit at desks for hours on end. Take regular breaks if you are working on a computer and walk around and stretch your arms and legs.

The gym

For most people, especially those living and working in cities, joining a gym or health club is the way to get regular exercise. At a gym you will be able to do aerobic exercise and body strengthening using machines and free weights.

If your health club has a swimming pool use it regularly as swimming is the best all round exercise you can get. Alternate with the treadmill and exercise bike. It is advisable if you are new to gyms that you engage a fitness instructor who can tailor the exercise programme to your age and fitness level.

Note: At the gym or health club it is important for anyone with heart problems to ask questions about the staff’s training in dealing with cardiac emergencies.

Always consult a doctor before starting an exercise routine especially if you have heart problems.

Healthy eating

Eating a healthy diet, which includes fruit and vegetables is a must. Also try not to skip meals especially breakfast.

Certain foods are said to help prevent disease and some studies have shown for example, that garlic can lower cholesterol levels. However, such research is often inconclusive and is changing as new studies are conducted and scientists are getting a better understanding of the body and how it functions.

This has recently been the case with alcohol. Although previous research has suggested heart–healthy benefits from moderate alcohol use, up to date research has suggested that only people with certain genetic patterns will receive this benefit. Note. Moderate drinking should be no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

A lot has been written about the dangers of trans fat and/or saturated fat. Try, if at all possible, to avoid these as even small amounts can increase your risk of heart disease. Whereas, monounsaturated fat eaten in moderation, can increase “good” cholesterol levels. Be careful when eating out, as you do not know how much “bad” fat is being used. Try and eat at restaurants that promote healthy and organic food and avoid eating too many processed meals and putting salt on your food.

Avoid smoking

Everyone knows this, but for anyone who has smoked and stopped knows, the addictive nature of smoking makes it very hard indeed to give up.

You should know that the ingredients in cigarettes are fatal for you; tar for one is a term used to describe the different carcinogens found in tobacco smoke and is considered to be a major cause of lung cancer and that carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke is fatal in large amounts.

If you do smoke consult your doctor for help, as there are now many ways to kick the habit safely.

Your body weight

Body weight is an important factor and you should find your ideal weight for your age and height and stick to it. Being over weight can also cause other chronic diseases such as diabetes and you should consult your doctor if you are well over the recommended weight.

A note about using diet pills. Research shows that almost all people who use diet pills to lose weight, without also developing a healthy eating and exercise routine, regain the weight within two years.

Other factors

Dental hygiene is important for a healthy heart. Researchers have identified gum disease as a risk factor for heart disease. Patients with gum disease have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack than patients with healthy gums.

Chronic levels of stress or depression have also been associated with increased risk of heart disease and researchers also believe keeping your anger in, or to go to the other extreme can affect the health of your heart. Try laughter as an antidote.


If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to prevent heart problems then medication is needed.

Taking aspirin can be the first step followed by cholesterol-lowering medicine, called statins, and beta-blockers that slow down the heart, so there’s less pressure on it.

After medication is intervention. At this stage the heart’s arteries have become clogged as fat builds up in and on the artery’s walls.

A procedure called coronary angioplasty is used that reopens the clogged arteries of the heart, allowing a healthy blood flow through the previously blocked artery.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure so get informed and consult your doctor about issues that concern you.