To help reduce the risk of heart disease or a heart attack you need to take charge of your lifestyle. Diet and exercise are key components of a successful prevention or recovery plan, and the following tips will benefit anyone who may be at risk.
1 Manage the big risk factors. Quit smoking, it is the major preventable risk factor for heart disease and has negative health consequences for your entire body, from your taste buds to your energy levels to your skin. If you have other risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about getting them under control .
2 Eat a heart-healthy diet. Avoid trans-fats and include more vegetables, fruits, whole soy products, legumes, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
3 Get active. Moderate physical activity helps keep the heart muscle strong and the arteries flexible, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, increases overall energy and helps elevate and stabilize mood.
4 Exercise. Regular physical activity helps maintain the health of blood vessels, strengthens the heart muscle itself and can help reduce heart disease risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and stress. Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity on most days of the week. You may also add strength training (with weights or resistance bands) and do discuss with your physician. For individual guidance on form and technique, consult a personal trainer.
5 Lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss can significantly lower risks of cardiovascular disease.
6 Manage stress. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, influence cholesterol and may even increase homocysteine levels, a marker of cardiovascular risk. To help manage day-to-day challenges, practice breath work, meditation, guided imagery, visualization or another relaxation technique; participate in regular moderate exercise (including yoga and tai chi); and stay social and laugh often.
The role of progesterone
High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and oestrogen dominance (where oestrogen levels are far higher than progesterone) has been linked to this. Oestrogen and Progestogens (found in the Pill, HRT and Coil) adversely affect cell membranes resulting in weight gain and sodium and water influx into the cells. This causes water retention and the loss of heart health minerals potassium and magnesium. In women not on the Pill or HRT it is usually associated with progesterone deficiency as progesterone acts as a diuretic, encouraging the excretion of excess fluid from the body. This helps both with weight loss and reduction in blood pressure.