HEALTH: Preventing heart disease

From the NHS Choices Website

There are several ways you can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD):

Eat a healthy, balanced diet
A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains. You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day, as too much salt will increase your blood pressure. 6g of salt is about one teaspoonful.

There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. You should avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. Foods high in saturated fat include:

meat pies
sausages and fatty cuts of meat
butter
ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking
lard
cream
hard cheese
cakes and biscuits
foods that contain coconut or palm oil

However, a balanced diet should still include unsaturated fats, which have been shown to increase levels of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries. Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

oily fish
avocados
nuts and seeds
sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils

You should also try to avoid too much sugar in your diet, as this can increase your chances of developing diabetes, which is proven to dramatically increase your chances of developing CHD.

Be more physically active
Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure. Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Keep to a healthy weight
Your GP or practice nurse can tell you what your ideal weight is in relation to your height and build. Alternatively, find out what your body mass index (BMI) is by using the NHS Choices BMI calculator.

Give up smoking
If you smoke, giving up will reduce your risk of developing CHD. Smoking is a major risk factor for developing atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries). It also causes the majority of cases of coronary thrombosis in people under the age of 50. Research has shown you are up to four times more likely to successfully give up smoking if you use NHS support together with stop-smoking medicines, such as patches or gum. Ask your doctor about this or visit NHS Smokefree.

Reduce your alcohol consumption
If you drink, don’t exceed the maximum recommended limits.

men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
Always avoid binge drinking, as this increases the risk of a heart attack.

Keep your blood pressure under control
You can keep your blood pressure under control by eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, exercising regularly and, if required, taking the appropriate medication to lower your blood pressure. Your target blood pressure should be below 140/85mmHg. If you have high blood pressure, ask your GP to check your blood pressure regularly.

Keep your diabetes under control
You have a greater risk of developing CHD if you are diabetic. If you have diabetes, being physically active and controlling your weight and blood pressure will help manage your blood sugar level. If you are diabetic, your target blood pressure level should be below 130/80mmHg.

Take any medication prescribed for you
If you have CHD, you may be prescribed medication to help relieve your symptoms and stop further problems developing. If you do not have CHD but do have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a history of family heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent you developing heart-related problems.

If you are prescribed medication, it is vital you take it and follow the correct dosage. Do not stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first, as doing so is likely to make your symptoms worse and put your health at risk.

Further reading

Much more on this issue and other health issues on NHS Choices Website

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