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Heart Disease: How To Reduce The Risk

How Can You Reduce Your Risk For Heart Disease?

Last modified: 
29/03/2012 - 22:01

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

In order to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), you first must identify what may be putting you at risk. Determine if you're at risk by reviewing your lifestyle and diet. Ask your physician to check your blood cholesterol level. If you have only one uncontrollable risk factor, smoking or being overweight could make it worse.

Even if you are at risk for coronary heart disease, you can eliminate many of the major risk factors for CHD by making simple changes in diet and lifestyle. These changes are healthy for the entire family and reduce your risk of other diseases as well. They include:

  • Control your cholesterol level
  • Control high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight if you need to
  • Get active
  • Manage stress

How-To Information:

Making changes

It is all too easy to hear some suggestions, tell yourself "that makes sense-I'll do it," and then forget all about it. A systematic approach to change can help you make gradual progress towards health, one step at a time:

  1. Find your starting point. Keep a diary for a few days to record your normal food intake or patterns of exercise. What needs to change?
  2. Once you have identified your problem, make a commitment to change.
  3. Develop a plan for change. How will you start to make a change? If many changes are required, which one will you make first?
  4. Check up on yourself to see how well you are carrying out and keeping up the changes. Keep a food and exercise diary or schedule weekly weight checks.
  5. Ask friends and family for support. Schedule a daily walk with a friend, or plan low-fat, high-fiber meals with your spouse.
  6. Reward yourself. When you reach a goal - say, a month without a cigarette, or losing 5 pounds - indulge in that book you've been wanting to buy, a new CD by your favorite musician, or new clothes.

Don't expect to embark on four- or five-change campaigns at the same time. However, there is plenty of overlap. For example, a regular exercise program will help improve your health in many ways: exercise also helps lower your cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and boosts your cardiovascular fitness.

When making changes, you need to pace yourself. Make adjustments to your way of living in whatever order is easiest and don't rush. Gradual changes are more likely to be permanent than rapid and drastic ones.

If you need more help, check out local libraries, bookstores, and organizations such as the YMCA. Your local chapter of the American Heart Association) can also offer a wealth of resources to help you make the changes you need.

Nice To Know:

Other Health Benefits

Changes such as low-fat eating, regular exercise, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight will help you feel better, look better, and have more energy. Besides reducing your risk for coronary heart disease, you'll also reduce your risk for:

  • Certain kinds of cancer
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Osteoporosis (a condition in which the bones become weak and susceptible to fractures)

Even if your risk for coronary heart disease is high, you can reduce that risk immediately by changing your diet, exercise, and smoking habits. And since a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is appropriate for all people 2 years of age or older, your entire family can benefit.

 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.