Heart attack prevention depends on monitoring and modifying certain risk factors. These risk factors are interrelated. Each of us may have one or more risk factors. If we make moderate change in one area of life, we may reduce other risk factors at the same time.
Keep blood cholesterol levels in check.
–Everyone adult should know what his or her cholesterol level is.
–According to the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines, if your cholesterol level is greater than 240 mg/dL or if the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) is above 130 mg/dL, aggressive measures should be taken to lower it.
–If you can’t lower your levels through diet alone, medications can help.
–Lipid- and cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), cerivastatin (Baycol [removed from US market 8/8/01]), and pravastatin (Pravachol) can reduce the rate of progression of coronary heart disease and also reduce repeat heart attacks. They work by lowering cholesterol and modifying the inner lining of your arteries.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
–Avoid eating large amounts of fat and cholesterol in your diet because these can accelerate the progression of hardening and clogging of coronary arteries.
–A well-balanced diet is good not only for those with high cholesterol but also for everyone. It helps to control cholesterol level as well as weight.
–The American Heart Association recommends that the maximum number of calories from fat be less than 30% of total calories.
Limit the amount of fast food you eat.
–Most fast food is very high in fat, even the salads and other so-called “healthy” foods.
–This may not be convenient but may provide significant benefit in the long run.
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
–Although some research suggests that alcohol can help protect against heart disease, limit your intake to 1-2 drinks per day.
–Larger amounts can increase blood pressure, cause heart rhythm disturbances, and damage the heart muscle or liver.
–Quitting smoking is the single best lifestyle change you can make.
–Passive smoking, smoking cigars, or chewing tobacco are also dangerous to health.
–Quitting is difficult for most people. Ask your health care provider for advice and support.
Increase your physical activity.
–Exercise helps to lower the blood pressure, increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL), and control excess weight.
–Start slowly if you need to, but try to reach the goal of at least 30 minutes of endurance exercise 3-5 times a week. Such exercises include walking, swimming, biking, and aerobics.
–Almost everyone can take part in some form of physical activity.
–Before beginning an exercise program, talk to your health care provider.
Lose extra weight.
–Being overweight puts extra strain on the heart and blood vessels.
–A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off.
–Many diets are promoted by people with self-interest. Some of these may be unsafe.
–Get advice from your health care provider before starting any nontraditional weight loss program.
–Avoid “diet pills” (such as Fen-Phen). Some of these have been found to cause heart valve disease or other dangerous conditions in some users.
–“Natural” weight-loss products such as ephedrine can be very dangerous.