Reducing the risk of heart disease and CHD

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is one of the biggest killer of males in the United Kingdom. Coronary heart disease is a preventable disease. Approximately 275,000 people in the UK have a heart attack every year. It that kills more than 110,000 people in England every year.

(BUPA, 2007)

Coronary heart disease is primarily caused when the heart's arteries become clogged by fatty deposits. As a result the blood flow from the heart reduces and can actual clot (thrombus). This over time will lead to a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI).

Risk factors attrituting to heart disease

The risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) not only increases with age but is also effected by another number genetic and non-genetic (lifestyle) factors. For example men have a higher predisposition to contracting heart disease than women. Also a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure may play a part in whether or not someone develops CHD.

However, by far, today it is the lifestyle choices we make that dramatically effect whether or not we suffer from heart disease.

The three main factors of today's lifestyle are reportidly:

  • Poor diet - too much fat and cholestrol
  • Lack of exercise - leading to weight gain
  • Smoking

Improving diet

Certain levels of cholesterol are essential to health, but high cholesterol levels, particularly LDL (low density lipoprotein – “bad” cholesterol) can lead to blocked arteries. High levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) present a risk because plaque accumulation in arteries over time can lead to blockage. If this blockage is in a coronary artery, it can lead to a heart attack. If the blockage occurs in the brain, it can result in a stroke. Typically, 65% of total cholesterol is made up of LDL cholesterol; however, levels vary among individuals so it’s important to know both your total cholesterol number as well as your HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL numbers - a test which can be performed at your GP, with a qualified dietitian, or even at local healthy living centres / health clubs.

Below are some tips for improving your day to day eating habits

  • Take control of your health. Have your cholesterol tested regularly. Partner with your healthcare professional to keep your cholesterol numbers in control.
  • Take control of your grocery shopping. Read food labels; choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Take control of portion sizes. Learn what one serving or portion looks like.
  • Take control of your weight. Aim for a healthy weight and body composition.
  • Take control of your refrigerator. Stock your pantry with fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
  • Take control of your activity level. Do moderate physical activity like brisk walking for at least 30 minutes on most, and preferably all, days of the week. No time? Do three 10-minute segments on as many days as you can.

Increasing exercise levels

Increasing exercise levels to lower the risk of heart disease doesn't mean that one has to join the local gym or hire a personal trainer. Developing a basic exercise programme of low intensity exercise like walking, hill walking, jogging, cylcing or swimming will allow the body to increase the amount of 'good' cholesterol (HDL) within the body. This substance attacks the harmful fatty acids which is then deposited via human waste, meaning the body's arteries stay open and the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke are dramatically reduced.

The negative effects of smoking

It is estimated that every cigarette steals 7 minutes from the smokers life! Not only that but the typical smoker is 5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a non smoker! The reason for this is two flood.

  • Smokers have a reduced capacity to deliver oxygen around the body.
  • Smoking increases the level of fatty acids deposited in the smokers arteries.

The best way to reduce these effects is simply to stop smoking.

What can I do to lower my risk of developing coronary heart disease

The best actions that you can take to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease are:

  •  eat a healthy balanced diet (including eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day)
  • take regular exercise
  • stop smoking
  • drink alcohol only in moderation
  • have your blood pressure checked
  • have your blood cholesterol level checked

(BUPA, 2007)

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