Heart attacks take people by surprise, but they seldom happen out of the blue because the heart problems that cause heart attacks develop slowly over many years. The gradual progression of heart disease gives you the chance to prevent a heart attack.
At Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute, Dr. Laura Fernandes provides exceptional cardiology care, which includes her dedication to preventive care.
Whether you schedule a heart assessment before problems arise or you seek help after experiencing worrisome symptoms like chest pain and a pounding heart, she recommends proactive steps that lower your risk for a heart attack.
You can get a head start on protecting your heart health by following the recommendations below.
Know your risks and manage chronic health conditions
The factors that raise your risk for developing heart disease and having a heart attack include lifestyle issues and a personal or family history of:
- Heart attacks or strokes
- Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Vascular disease (clogged arteries)
If you have any of these risks, you can still avoid heart attacks by managing chronic conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes and scheduling preventive heart care before symptoms appear.
Implement a heart-healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet follows the same guidelines for a well-balanced diet, including following a meal plan containing:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Unsaturated fats (olive, peanut, and canola oils)
- Fish, skinless poultry, and lean meat
In addition to consuming healthy foods, it’s essential to avoid excess salt, added sugar, and processed foods. Two heart-healthy diets to consider are the DASH eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is one of the primary causes of Type 2 diabetes. Having diabetes makes you two times more likely to have heart problems.
Carrying extra weight raises the risk of developing high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure). Your heart also works harder when you’re overweight, which damages the heart muscle.
Losing weight (if needed) by limiting calories and increasing your activity level is one of the best ways to prevent heart failure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and heart attacks.
Follow an exercise routine
The health benefits of exercise are extensive, from improving your mood and supporting weight loss to lowering the risk of chronic health conditions, including heart disease.
You don’t need to join a gym or engage in vigorous activities to improve your heart health. Pick an activity you enjoy, like walking, dancing, cycling, or swimming, and stick with it, getting 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
The chemicals you inhale when you smoke can damage every organ in your body, raising your risk for many types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Smoking (or breathing second-hand smoke) harms your blood vessels and heart and accelerates arterial diseases like atherosclerosis (the buildup of cholesterol).
It’s tough to stop smoking because nicotine changes nerve communication in your brain, making it dependent on a continuous supply. Don’t hesitate to seek our help to break your smoking habit.
Get enough sleep
Your heart rate and blood pressure drop while you sleep, giving your heart a much-needed break and supporting its long-term health.
Sleep deprivation leads to weight gain, hypertension, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and ultimately, having a heart attack.
Stress hormone levels stay too high when you feel anxious or stressed. As long as your hormone levels are elevated, so is your heart rate, and that causes heart problems and, potentially, a heart attack.
You can reduce your stress with techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing, and exercising, and seek help when those steps don’t relieve your stress.
At every age, taking steps to support your heart will lower your risk of a heart attack. Call our office or use online booking if you have any questions or want to schedule preventive heart care.