Preventing Heart Disease

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Heart disease is a leading cause of death amongst older persons. Although we cannot change some risk factors, such as family history, gender and age, there are several ways through which we can reduce our risk of developing heart disease:

Get Active
One cannot stress the importance of regular physical activity enough. Physical inactivity comes at a high health and financial cost. It can lead to heart disease, type II diabetes, several cancers and obesity which, in turn, are lifelong to treat.
Physical activity helps us to raise ‘good’ cholesterol and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. Ultimately, it lowers the risk of heart disease and nerve damage as well as provides additional benefits such as improved sleep, and improved bone and musculoskeletal health, which are increasingly important as we age. It also helps to improve our cognitive ability. Research has shown a positive correlation between physical activity and reduced risk of dementia. Examples of simple activities to begin with include moderate aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, and walking. Also, taking the stairs, and walking your pets helps.

Healthy diets CREDIT: YouTube

A heart-friendly diet
Some people call it a heart-healthy diet, and others, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It is important to note that DASH is simply an example of a heart-healthy food plan. Whatever you choose, the point is to adopt a diet that can help promote good heart health. Such a diet is one rich in veggies and fruits, low fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, and local beans, among others. It also includes limiting one’s intake of sugar, salt, processed foods, saturated (full-fat dairy products), trans fat (fried fast food and baked goods), and alcohol.


Quit smoking
Chemicals found in tobacco are known to damage the heart and blood vessels. Smoking reduces the oxygen in the blood, which raises blood pressure and heart rate. Thus, it causes the heart to work harder than it ought to. Anything that could potentially put a strain on your heart needs to be cut out of your lifestyle.

Manage stress
Stress can also put the heart under strain. As such, it is important to adopt healthy habits that manage stress. Never let your stress level rise and fall at will. Be proactive about its management.

Quality sleep
Those who do not get enough quality sleep are at a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and even heart attack. Most of us need at least seven (7) hours of sleep each night. While this may be hard to achieve in a city as busy as Lagos, it pays to be proactive about quality sleep and managing as much as you can get each night.

Furthermore, there are sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea that can increase one’s risk of heart disease. Signs of this disorder include loud snoring, waking up gasping for air, breathing stoppage for short times during sleep, and so on. If you’ve been diagnosed and have been put on a treatment that may include losing weight (if overweight) and CPAP therapy, it is important to take it seriously because of its complications.

Regular health screenings
Many of the signs of heart disease go undetected until it becomes quite bad. Often, there is no accompanying sign of high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Knowing your numbers goes a long way in avoiding or treating heart disease and this includes your BP, cholesterol, and diabetes screening, among other screenings.


Dr Folashade Alli

Dr Folasade Alli, Consultant Cardiologist, Lagos Executive Cardiovascular Centre.
LinkedIn: Dr Folasade Alli

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