Reduce your chance of heart attack or stroke - tackle all the risk factors
There are multiple risk factors that can contribute to heart attack or stroke. The good news is that you can tackle most of them yourself.
Some risk factors can’t be controlled, such as age, gender, race or a family history of heart disease. However there are changes that can and should be made to tackle the risk factors we can control – such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, risk of diabetes, and weight.
Smoking and obesity are the major risk factors, and the medical advice for dealing with these factors hasn’t changed: Quit smoking and lose weight – especially if that excess weight is around the waist.
But that’s only part of the equation. A good diet and regular exercise are important lifestyle habits to minimize your risk.
Cholesterol guidelines have been revamped in recent years. People need to get tested, keep track of their cholesterol numbers and take steps to stay within the guidelines.
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People need to be aware of both “bad,” or LDL cholesterol and “good,” or HDL cholesterol, which helps to keep the bad cholesterol down. Avoiding saturated fats can lower bad cholesterol. Regular exercise can help improve good cholesterol, and there are medications available if nothing else works.
High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.
The ideal blood pressure numbers have been a moving target in recent years. Today, 135 over 85 is the upper limit of healthy blood pressure, and people with diabetes should keep it even lower.
Lifestyle strategies to control high blood pressure include losing weight, eating foods low in fat and salt and high in potassium, not smoking, limiting caffeine and alcohol, getting regular exercise, managing stress, and medication.
Remember: It is important to tackle all the risk factors to achieve the greatest benefits.
Source: Australian Heart Foundation http://www.heartfoundation.com.au/