Reducing your risk of heart attack
A heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the blood supply to the heart tissue is reduced, causing the heart to fail as a pump. The leading cause of heart attack is coronary heart disease, which is where the arteries supplying blood to the heart are blocked by cholesterol plagues. If a plague becomes dislodged or causes a blood clot to develop then this can block the blood supply.
Living a healthy lifestyle that keeps your risk of MI low is something that everyone should be aware of. There are five main factors that contribute to this healthy lifestyle – diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol and blood pressure. Smoking actually damages the lining of your arteries and this provides sites where plague deposits can accumulate, these narrow the arteries and that raises blood pressure. Nicotine can raise blood pressure and heart rate and cigarette smoke can damage blood cells making them more likely to clot. Reducing and stopping smoking is vital in managing blood pressure over time, but is very hard to achieve alone. Visit the NHS quit smoking pages for practical help.
Another high risk activity is drinking. Regularly drinking above the low risk guideline of 14 units per week can over time increase your blood pressure. The calories in alcohol are also important as an influence on body weight and this should be considered as part of a calorie counted diet. The choice of food consumed is often greatly different once alcohol has been consumed, so there is potentially a 3 fold impact on blood pressure.
Reducing your risk of heart attack through diet is not as hard as it may seem. Diet can greatly influence a person’s cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Avoiding processed foods is the key as this should reduce the amount of salt and saturated fat in the food consumed. A diet that is high in vegetables and fruit, wholegrain cereals and lean meats and fish, all prepared at home is the ideal way to eat healthily.
Being active is the most important factor in one’s general health and wellbeing, both physiologically and psychologically. The national guidelines for the amount of exercise that is needed to keep a person healthy is only 150 minutes of moderate exercise with two sessions of resistance training per week. This can be broken down into manageable chunks making the 2.5hrs easier to fit into your routine. The types of exercise range from brisk walking, cycling, rowing, climbing, jogging, swimming, cross training. Higher intensity activity for those who are able to do it means that the number of minutes goes down to 75 per week. Find activities near you with the Change 4 Life website activities search page.
Hypertension or high blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart attack as well as other conditions like kidney disease and vascular dementia. All the factors above play a role in determining your blood pressure. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet is one practical way to reduce blood pressure but other ways are reducing body fat through exercise, reducing alcohol intake, reduce and then stop smoking, lower LDL cholesterol levels through diet and exercise interventions.
A small tweak in lifestyle in all the key 5 areas mentioned can cumulatively reduce your risk of heart attack and this is a lot easier to manage than an overhaul of your entire life! Eat healthily, regularly exercise, drink little and don’t smoke is the long term aim for a healthy heart.
Our workplace health screening includes a cardiovascular risk score which indicates the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. If you’d like to find out more about our workplace health screening, contact us via our website or call us on 0800 170 1777. We’d love to support you with your organisational health and wellbeing.