80% of Heart Attacks Could Be Avoided by Doing These 5 Easy Things
Heart attack is the leading cause of death in the United States. Although a heart attack (or cardiac arrest) may be preceded by the symptoms of heart disease, some victims of heart attack are symptomless until the day they have their first heart attack.
It’s remarkable that heart attacks are extremely common and they cause so much pain, yet most of them are preventable: read on to find out 5 lifestyle changes that can prevent nearly 80% of heart attacks.
Heart Attack Causes and Signs
According to Mayo clinic, a heart attack occurs when one or more of your coronary arteries become blocked. Over time, a coronary artery can narrow from the buildup of various substances, including cholesterol (atherosclerosis). This condition, known as coronary artery disease, causes most heart attacks.
Another cause of a heart attack is a spasm of a coronary artery that shuts down blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Use of tobacco and of illicit drugs, such as cocaine, can cause a life-threatening spasm. A heart attack can also occur due to a tear in the heart artery (spontaneous coronary artery dissection).
People generally know that a crushing chest pain or sudden shooting pain in the left arm may indicate a heart problem, but many do not know that there are other signs that could mean heart trouble, and I’ve written about them in my article about 10 signs of a heart attack never to ignore.
So what can be done to prevent heart disease and keep your heart healthy? Well, the good news is that 79-90% of heart attacks could be avoided with only five simple lifestyle changes.
5 Lifestyle Changes that Could Prevent Nearly 80% of Heart Attacks
A recent research study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that five main factors appeared to contribute to whether or not one may be at risk for heart attack:
- A healthy diet
- No smoking
- Being physical active (walking/bicycling more than 40 min/day and exercising more than 1 hour per week)
- Healthy waist circumference (<95 cm)
- Moderate alcohol consumption (10 to 30 g/day)
This study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in September 2014, was a longitudinal research piece—that is, it followed a group of people in one country (Sweden) for a period of 11 years. At the end of the study, those who had engaged in those five specific healthy lifestyle habits, reduced their risk for developing heart disease by 79%.1
Another research study from about 10 years previous had similar findings. This research piece took a look at people from more than 50 countries across the world. Published in 2004 in the British journal Lancet, this study showed similar results, but also included factors related to diabetes and psycho-social factors. The research concluded that these factors accounted for 90% of reduced risk for heart attack in men and 94% in women.2
It is clear from looking at both new and old research that lifestyle habits play a large role in the potential for developing heart problems, and the risk for a heart attack could potentially be reduced by 79-90% by making a few simple—albeit sometimes challenging—lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Changes to Boost Heart Health
Both of these studies have shown that our lifestyle choices play a significant role in whether or not we develop heart disease or could be prone to heart attacks.
If you’re wondering whether you could do something to help protect your heart health, here are some options to consider exploring:
Eating a heart-conscious diet may be one of the most important things you can do to ward off a heart attack.
Eating foods that are high in fiber, low in trans fat, and contain adequate levels of nutrients like vitamins and minerals can help your whole body be healthier—including your heart.
A diet high in fruits and vegetables, lean protein (for vegetarians see these meat free protein sources), healthy fat (such as from nuts, seeds and avocado) and low in processed food can help your heart keep beating for a long time to come.
Limit alcohol consumption
It was found that those who limited alcohol consumption (those who drink 10-30 grams per day of alcohol) experience the most heart health benefits of all.
Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and cab also add extra calories, which may cause weight gain.
Ditch the cigarettes
Smoking is a big health no-no, and this extends to heart health.
Cigarette smoking can have a severe negative impact on heart health on top of the lung damage it may cause with COPD and lung cancer.
To protect your heart, quit smoking cigarettes. If you can’t do it “cold turkey,” consider using natural remedies to help you along the path to wellness, for example try these 5 natural ways to quit smoking (scientifically proven).
The belly fat factor
Both the aforementioned research studies showed that “abdominal adiposity”—AKA belly fat—was a significant contributor to heart attack risk.
People with visceral fat (fatty organs) often show fat in their abdominal area, manifesting as a “barrel belly.” This abdominal fat that is so dangerous to heart health may feel solid to the touch or soft to the touch, but in either case, could be just as deadly.
So, what’s healthy for the waistline? According to the recent study a waist circumference smaller than 95 cm is ideal.
The key thing here is fat in the internal organs, or viscera, though. Take steps to reduce visceral fat (and belly fat) to ensure a long-lived heart.
You can find more information on how lose your belly without counting calories or starving yourself in my e-book Blast Your Belly Fat.
Get Physically active
Incorporating physical activities into your daily life is one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health.
And indeed both studies have found that regular exercise is crucial to maintaining good heart health.
Being a “couch potato” is bad for you, and can contribute to health problems—in particular heart problems. This is something that I’ve mentioned in my article on how sitting is slowly killing you and what you can do about it.
Your body was designed to be used, and the recent study talks about walking/bicycling more than 40 minutes a day and exercising more than one hour per week. So make sure to regularly exercise. It can make a huge difference for heart-related wellness (and the rest of your body, too!).
According to the National Heart, Blood and Lung institute, everyone should try to participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week, or vigorous aerobic exercise for 1 hour and 15 minutes per week. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is any exercise in which your heart beats faster and you use more oxygen than usual. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.
Get stress under control
Chronic (long-term) and acute (short-term, but intense) stress can both have an awful effect on your health, and I’ve already written about the negative effects that stress have on the body.
The stress factor is also a factor mentioned by The American Heart Association. The association mentions that a few studies have found a relationship between stress and increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
It was found that some of the ways that people deal with stress is by bad habits such as excessive drinking, smoking or overeating.
Extreme stress or emotionally upsetting event were also found to trigger heart attack.
Learn how to manage stress and relax your mind. You can try stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, exercising, engaging in a favorite hobby or talking to a close family member or a supportive friend. You can also use certain essential oils for stress and anxiety.
Manage diabetes and high blood pressure
The American Heart Association also mentions that at least 68% of people under the age of 65 years of age with diabetes die of some form of heart disease.3
Other risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity can greatly increase a diabetic person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
If you suffer from diabetes, you can control your blood sugar level by eating these foods, spices and herbs as well as consuming apple cider vinegar (ACV) and okra water. You can also find information in my article about the best ways to reduce your high blood pressure naturally.
Remember – Your lifestyle choices are your best defense against heart disease and heart attack, and they are also under your responsibility.