Q: How to avoid a heart attack or cerebrovascular accident (CVA)?
A: The WHO estimates that more than 17.3 million people died from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke in 2008. Contrary to what is generally believed, 4 of these 5 deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and men and women were affected in the same way.
The good news however, is that 80% of premature heart attacks or strokes are preventable. A healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoidance of tobacco products are the keys to prevention.
Healthy diet: a balanced diet is essential for the health of the heart and circulatory system. It should consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and legumes, and restricting salt intake, sugar and fat.
Regular exercise: at least 30 minutes of regular exercise each day helps to maintain good cardiovascular health; at least 60 minutes usually helps maintain a healthy weight.
Avoid smoking: tobacco in all its forms is very dangerous to health – whether cigarettes, cigars, pipes or chewing tobacco. Exposure to tobacco smoke is also dangerous. The risk of heart attack and stroke starts to drop as soon as a person stops using tobacco products may decrease by almost half after one year.
To control your cardiovascular risk:
- Know your blood pressure: high blood pressure usually no symptoms but can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. Take your blood pressure.
- Know your sugar levels in the blood: high blood sugar (diabetes) increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. If you have diabetes, it is very important to control your blood pressure and sugar levels to reduce the risk.
- Know your lipid levels in the blood: high cholesterol and abnormal lipid levels in the blood increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Blood cholesterol levels should be controlled through a healthy diet and, if necessary, appropriate medications.