Your heart is the engine that drives your body. It is a powerful muscle that pumps blood to your entire body, providing the oxygen and nutrients that you need to live. The average human heart works at a rate of 100,000 beats a day or an incredible 2,500 million beats over a lifetime of 70 years.
Heart disease is a name given to a variety of conditions that affect the performance of the heart. Important examples of heart disease include:
- Angina, in which there is poor blood circulation to the heart;
- Heart attack, in which there is death of part of the heart muscle;
- Arrhythmia, in which the rate or rhythm of the heart beat is abnormal.
Your heart is designed to last a lifetime, but you have to do your bit to help ensure it stays in good working order. There are many steps you can take to help prevent heart disease from developing. Read on to find out how you can increase your chances of having and maintaining a healthy, functioning heart.
Exercise is the one of the best – and most enjoyable – ways of lowering your chances of developing heart disease. Regular exercise helps your heart to become stronger, so it can pump more blood around your body with less effort. Indeed, if you exercise on a regular basis, the chance of you developing heart disease is about half that of people who do no exercise at all. Exercise can also help reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure (both of which can lead to heart disease), help you to sleep better, and help provide a feeling of well-being.
Giving up smoking not only reduces your risk of developing heart disease, but also the risk of many other serious illnesses, like cancer and emphysema. No matter how old you are, it is not too late to stop. As soon as you do, your health will improve immediately. Studies show that, after five years of giving up smoking, the risk of developing heart disease is the same as for someone who has never smoked.
High blood pressure increases your chances of developing heart disease, but there are usually no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, so you may not be aware you have it. That's why you need to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at least once every five years.
Eating well can also help prevent heart disease. No one food can provide all the nutrition you need, so eat a variety of foods every day. Try to cut down on the amount of salt that you add to your food, and avoid processed foods that have a high salt content. Choose healthy cooking methods (grill, bake, steam or microwave instead of frying), trim fat off meat, and remove skin from chicken.
Most importantly, cut down on foods that contain saturated fat, such as pies, sausages and cream. Saturated fat raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance found in all animal tissues. It is essential to life and a vital part of every cell in your body. However, when the level of cholesterol becomes too high, it can lead to blockage of or reduction in the flow of blood through your vessels, and thus to heart disease. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps prevent high cholesterol levels.