Both heart attacks and strokes occur due to some kind of interruption in the normal blood flow to the heart or brain. Due to lack of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, heart or brain cells cannot function properly, at times leading to a heart attack or stroke.
During a heart attack, blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. A stroke occurs when blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. The signs and symptoms of a heart attack are unexplained dizziness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness or breaking out in a cold sweat.
On the other hand, signs and symptoms of a stroke are sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, face drooping, difficulty talking and sudden headache. Some of the risk factors for heart attacks and strokes are high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, age, smoking, excessive drinking and prior history of strokes or heart attacks.
Another risk factor for heart attacks is physical inactivity. Additional risk factors for strokes are genetics and use of birth control bills. While men are at a greater risk of having a heart attack, women are more prone to suffer a stroke.
1. Stay Informed
Ignorance about your health can put you at a higher risk of heart disease and other problems. Hence, the best prevention against heart attacks and strokes is to understand the risk factors and treatment options. Some risk factors for a heart attack or stroke that you can control or manage are high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, smoking and stress.
2. Stop Smoking
Smoking and use of any other form of tobacco increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and according to a 2009 study published in the journal Atherosclerosis, smoking cessation can be highly effective for improving cardiovascular health.
3. Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet
Being careful about what you eat can help lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, improving your diet is an important step toward preventing heart disease. Try to eat nutrient-rich foods that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, but are lower in calories.
· Eat 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits daily.
· Eat a high fiber meal cereal at least 4 times a week.
· Eat cold-water fish like salmon and tuna at least twice a week.
· Avoid high-fat and high-sugar products and reduce your salt intake.
· Use healthy cooking oil like olive, canola, sunflower and safflower oil.
· Instead of deep-frying, prepare your foods by grilling, boiling, steaming and baking.
4. Exercise a Little Everyday
Regular exercise can help manage heart disease and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, the more you exercise, the lower your risk. Regular exercise benefits the heart in many ways, such as reducing body weight, blood pressure, and bad (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) and total cholesterol levels. It also helps increase your good (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) cholesterol and insulin sensitivity.
5. Maintain Healthy Body Weight
Being overweight, especially carrying fat around your waist, increases the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. All these factors heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease. You can calculate your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference to find out whether you have a healthy percentage of body fat and excess weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is healthy. If your BMI is 30 or more, you are overweight.
6. Control Your Stress Level
Stress as well as anger, anxiety and depression not only affect the functioning of the heart, but also increase the risk for heart disease. Persisting stress increases the risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease by evoking negative emotions, which in turn raise the levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body called cytokines.
7. Get Enough Quality Sleep
Sleep deprivation can harm your health in many ways. People who do not get enough sleep have a higher risk of heart disease. In fact, people with sleep apnea, a serious disorder in which a person briefly and repeatedly stops breathing for short periods during sleep, are more prone to lung and artery damage. This increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
8. Drink Wisely
When taken in moderation, red wine can help protect against heart disease because it contains the antioxidants resveratrol and catechins that help protect the artery walls. It also helps reduce inflammation that adversely affects heart health. However, to enjoy the heart benefits of red wine, you need to keep a check on how much you are drinking in a day. Too much wine can cause heart-related problems. Excessive intake can raise blood pressure and triglyceride levels as well as damage your heart muscles.
9. Get Regular Health Screenings
Getting regular health screenings and tests is one of the best ways to detect problems that may increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can damage your heart and blood vessels.
10. Manage Health Problems
High blood pressure causes wear and tear of the inner lining of your blood vessels, which increases the risk of a heart attack. To maintain a healthy blood pressure, your blood pressure reading should be around 120/80 mmHg.
To lower high blood pressure, limit your salt intake, exercise regularly and take your medications as recommended by your doctor without fail.
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