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Cardiovascular Diseases | Protecting Your Heart and Arteries

  • What are the risk factors of Cardiovascular Diseases?
  • How to reduce your risk of Cardiovascular Diseases?

What are the risk factors of Cardiovascular Diseases?

Most cardiovascular diseases are as a result of lifestyle choices and related conditions that increase its risk. Adjusting your lifestyle for the better will protect heart and arteries reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases and other lifestyle diseases. Make that choice today.

1. Tobacco use

Smoking cigarettes increases your blood pressure and makes it hard for your heart to function. It restricts oxygen supply to your heart and contains toxins which damage blood vessels causing atherosclerosis. Simply put smoking is really bad for you and for people around you when you're smoking.

2. Unhealthy diet

A diet that’s high in saturated fats, cholesterol and trans-fats and low in healthy foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains is a major risk for cardiovascular diseases.

3. High Bad Cholesterol and Low Good Cholesterol

High levels of the bad cholesterol (LDL) is a risk factor for atherosclerosis. You can read more about good and bad cholesterol and what role it plays in your health here.

4. Hypertension

Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases the risk of atherosclerosis. The high blood pressure damages the walls of the arteries increasing the rate at which plaque is formed. You can read more about Hypertension and how to manage it here.

5. Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and the risk of death from Coronary Heart Disease. You can read more on Diabetes and the lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of diabetes here.

6. Obesity

Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases as it’s associated with other lifestyle diseases including hypertension, diabetes, high bad cholesterol and low good cholesterol. Moreover obesity could be as a result of an unhealthy diet which we’ve seen is a risk factor for CVDs.

7. Lack of Physical Activity

Physical inactivity contributes to obesity and increases your risk of CVDs and other lifestyle diseases. Find out more on the benefits of exercise to your health.

8. Excessive Alcohol Intake

While it’s claimed that moderate alcohol can be good for heart health drinking too much alcohol can increase the levels of some fats in blood which promote atherosclerosis. It also increases one’s risk of hypertension, heart failure and obesity not to mention liver damage.

9. Age, Sex and Family History

  • Aging is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases – the risk of stroke doubles every decade after the age of 55.
  • Men are at more risk of developing coronary heart disease than pre-menopausal women. After menopause the risk in females is similar to that of males.
  • A family history of cardiovascular diseases in immediate family members increases one’s risk of coronary heart disease.

10. Race

People with African or Asian descent are at more risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than other groups.

How to reduce your risk of Cardiovascular Diseases?

Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing lifestyle risk factors that we've discussed above. To reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases you can do the following:

1. Screening

Most cardiovascular diseases show no symptoms or signs only until it’s late. You should therefore get screened routinely to ensure early detection.

2. Healthy Diet Practices

Take a balanced diet while taking note of the the following recommendations:
  • Put emphasis on a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and pulses
  • Eat healthy meats like fish and poultry(without skin)
  • Reduce intake of red meat and avoid fatty meats or make sure to trim off the fat
  • Reduce intake of processed meats
  • Reduce intake of foods high in saturated fats and avoid those with trans-fats
  • Limit your cholesterol intake to less than 300mg daily (more info here)
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods, snacks and sugary drinks
  • Use low-fat dairy (low fat yoghurt, skimmed milk) products whenever possible
  • Use healthy cooking oils (olive, canola, safflower, corn etc.) for cooking and preparing food instead of solid fats (butter, lard, hard stick margarine) and tropical oils (coconut, palm oil) that are high in saturated fats
  • Use more healthy cooking methods that don't add unnecessary fat and calories to your food. This include steaming, stir-frying, poaching, broiling and grilling, roasting and sautéing.

3. Achieve a healthy weight

If you’re obese or overweight work on losing weight in a healthy fashion. Avoid crash diets, starvation diets and any other methods that promise fast results. If you've have hard time losing weight you can see a registered Nutritionist or Dietitian to help you with coming with a proper weight loss plan.

To know whether you’re within a healthy weight range, please use our BMI calculator which you can find here.

4. Exercise more

Exercising reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and helps you in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. You can find out more on the benefits of exercising here.

5. Reduce Salt/Sodium Intake

Limit salt intake to less than 6g per day. This is roughly the amount of one teaspoon. Note however that some foods, particularly processed and packaged foods, contain sodium instead of table salt. Table salt is approximately 40% sodium and as such the daily intake for sodium is much lower. It’s recommended that it you limit sodium intake to no more than 1500mg to 2300mg per day.

6. Take Alcohol in moderation

Take alcohol in moderation - no more than one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men

7. Stop Smoking

Do not smoke tobacco and try quitting if you do. Also, always avoid second-hand smoke.

Previous: Cardiovascular Diseases | What Exactly Are They? 

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