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5 Ways to Prevent a Heart Attack

You are never too young or too old to keep your heart healthy. Start at an early age to prevent heart disease. Making smart decisions now can prevent you from having a heart attack.

1. Eat a healthy diet
The food you eat plays a significant role in your health. A heart healthy diet comprised of mostly vegetables and fruit. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals in your body to protect your heart and to prevent cancer. Limiting fat, especially saturated and trans fat, is critical because they increase your cholesterol and contribute to coronary artery disease. Sources of saturated and trans fat include red meat, dairy products, deep-fried food, bakery products, packaged snack foods, and margarines so they should be avoided at all cost.

2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being obese or overweight puts more strain on your heart. It increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Calculate your BMI to determine whether or not your weight is in a healthy range. A BMI between 18.5-2.9 is considered healthy, 25-29.9 is overweight, and >30 is obese. Another way to assess your weight is measuring your waist size. Males with a waist circumference > 40” and females with a waist circumference >35” are at higher risk of developing heart disease. By keeping a healthy weight, your heart will not have to work as hard.

3. Exercise Regularly for at Least 30 minutes every day
Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet will help control your weight. Being physically active at a young age helps you stay active throughout your life. As you get older, your metabolism slows down so it becomes easier to gain weight. It is important to get at least 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. Get as much physical activity as you can with everyday activities by gardening, taking the stairs, or walking the dog.

4. Don’t Smoke
One of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease is smoking or using tobacco of any kind. Tobacco contains chemicals that directly damage your heart and blood vessels. They eventually cause a narrowing of the arteries in your heart and can ultimately lead to a heart attack. Furthermore, carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in your blood, thus bringing less oxygen to your heart and the rest of your body. When you quit smoking, you can decrease your risk of heart disease close to that of a non-smoker.

5. Prevent or Control Diabetes
Diabetes itself is a risk factor for developing heart disease. Diabetics are twice as likely as non-diabetics to develop heart disease or a stroke and it tends to occur at an earlier age. The American Diabetes Association recommends screening with a fasting blood sugar at age 45 and re-testing every three years. If you have a family history of diabetes or are overweight, you may want to get screened at an earlier age. If you have diabetes, it is critical to monitor your blood sugar levels. Heart attacks in diabetics tend to be more serious and have a higher mortality rate. Controlling your blood sugar prevents the narrowing or blockage of your arteries and thus decreases your risk of a heart attack.

References:
1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Preventing-Heart-Disease—At-Any-Age_UCM_442925_Article.jsp
2. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/stroke/
3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease-prevention/art-20046502
4. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/index.html

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