Avoiding a Heart Attack

There are many things you can do to avoid a heart attack. Change your diet, get some exercise, and possibly take certain medications, and you will decrease your risk significantly.

You do not have to live on whole-wheat bread and spring water, or run marathons either. Minor changes in your diet and daily routine can make a major difference to your risk. Of course, if you happen to smoke, you must quit, and that might be harder than eating right. However, many former smokers have given up cigarettes, and you can too.

Quit smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attack, as well as for many other diseases. If you haven't yet quit, talk to your doctor. Effective medications are available to help you.

Support groups are also available at very reasonable costs through such organizations as the American Lung Association. Many people will not quit the first or second time they try, it's a tough addiction. However, many methods are available, and one will work for you.

Modify your diet

A diet that is low in salt and saturated fat, and high in vegetables, beans and grains, is helpful in avoiding a heart attack. Variations of this way of eating include the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

However, you may not need to follow a hard and fast diet plan. Simply eat less packaged food, which tends to be salty, and more home-cooked food. It is no harder to bake a potato than it is to prepare a packaged rice dish, for example. Yet the prepared rice dish is often high in salt, fat and ingredients with unpronounceable names.

You can still eat meat, but have smaller portions. Try to eat fish instead, or choose another seafood if you like it. Make sure you have your protein baked or broiled rather than fried. Add a salad to each meal, and have it as a first course.

Lose weight if you need to, but do it gradually. A single beer may have 150 calories or more, so cutting out one beer a day will eventually lead to weight loss, if you do not add calories elsewhere.

Exercise

Exercise is key for heart health, yet it's tough to exercise and still have balance in your life. Work in some exercise at work by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and by carrying messages to coworkers instead of emailing them. Walk somewhere at lunchtime to pick up a light meal.

Gardening is exercise, and so are housework and home repair projects. Eventually you want to be exercising daily, but your routine need not leave you soaked in sweat, especially at first. An evening stroll is exercise, and so is a round of golf.

More exercise is better, but it is never good to increase your amount of time, distance, or exertion by more than 10 percent in any week. Increase your routine gradually and you are more likely to reach your goal without setbacks.

Medical tests and medication

Certain medical conditions make people more prone to heart disease, so get tested for problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Medications for these conditions cut risk significantly, with almost no change in your daily routine.

Stress

The mechanism of the connection between stress and heart attack is not clear, but there does seem to be one. Fight stress with family time, alone time, and activities that relax you

For a more direct assault on stress, try yoga, tai chi, or even meditation. Some find long distance slow jogging relieves stress, while others relax by watching old comedies. Figure out what works for you, and do it.

Avoiding a heart attack is a matter of taking care of yourself. Use medication to overcome an inherited tendency to heart disease, and use a well-rounded fitness plan to keep your heart healthy.

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