As healthy lifestyle, managing stress, keys to warding off heart attack



Dr. Olusegun-Joseph, consultant cardiologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) spoke to GERALDINE AKUTU on tips towards a healthy heart.

Lifestyle changes to avoid heart attack

There are lifestyles changes that can help to lower the risk of developing heart attack. The first thing to stress is that heart attack and other heart disease prevention should start as early as possible.

Parents and guardians should encourage their children to make healthy lifestyle choices, and be an example by leading such a life.

Heart healthy eating is advised. Reduce your salt intake. Increased salt has been implicated as a risk factor for hypertension, heart failure and heart attack. Reduced salt intake is not limited to table salt, but includes salty condiments.

Reduce cholesterol and fatty meals. This will help in reducing the risk of accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels with resultant reduction of atherosclerosis.

Also, reduce your intake of sugary food and drinks, red meat and processed meal.

Fruits and Vegetables

Increase intake of fruits and vegetables. They have lots of anti-oxidants, which are beneficial to heart health, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack as well as cancers.

They also reduce aging process, and improve the health of other organs like the brain and the kidneys.

Increase intake of nuts like groundnut, cashew nuts, and walnuts. Cereals and whole grains like oatmeal are also heart healthy. Stop or reduce alcohol intake.

Increase your intake of fish, especially those rich in omega 3 fatty acid like Salmon. They reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Alcohol and Smoking

Increased alcohol intake can predispose one to hypertension, elevated fats, especially the triglycerides and heart attack.

Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing hypertension, heart attack, heart failure. It also increases the risk of developing cancer, degenerative diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s disease.

Physical Exercise and Weight

Increased physical activities and exercise help in reducing the risk of developing hypertension and heart attack. Exercise also impacts on the brain health, reproductive health as well as increasing the blood level of high-density cholesterol (the good cholesterol), while reducing serum level of low-density lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol).

Exercise 30 minutes per day for at least five days per week. World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates 10,000 steps per day as good enough physical activity. Increasing your physical activities is one way to go, instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs; take a 10-minute walk at lunch time. Do brisk walking from the car pack to the office, while avoiding the elevator.

Maintaining healthy weight is also very important. Obese patients should lose weight. This will cut down the risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart attack, and heart failure.

A body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 will impact positively on your health. BMI is calculated as weight (kg)/ Height (m2). On the other hand the waist circumference should be less than 88cm (35 in) for women, and 102cm (40 in) for men.

Stress is a major risk factor for heart attack. Managing stress is very important, therefore as a preventive target for heart attack. Relaxation, vacations, maintaining promoting healthy relationship as well as regular, exercise are all ways of reducing stress.
Medical regime, recommendations

Heart attack is preventable. 80 per cent of the risk factors are avoidable. As a nation, we need to work towards preventing 80 per cent of these risk factors. To curb them, we should follow the individualised approach (individual) and institution approach (Nigeria).

Health education on this issue is paramount. Enlightenment campaigns should be done through the media and other platform so that people will know of the risks factors of heart attack.

Sedentary lifestyle should be avoided. People should be told to cut down on fatty meals, reducing salt intake, smoking, stress management, exercise and follow a healthy lifestyle.

National Exercise Day

Nigerian state can make policies to address the risk factors and that is what is happening in the western world.

We can have a National Exercise Day for instance, which isn’t a bad idea.

Putting cost of medication within reach

In this era where there are a lot of challenges, financially and otherwise, I think that the National Health Insurance Scheme is on board. People can get enrolled in the National Health Insurance Scheme, so that they can enjoy the benefit. It is not all the drugs and investigations that are very expensive.

The cost of preventing heart attack and heart disease, generally, cannot be compared with the cost of managing established heart diseases. So, prevention is always cheaper than cure. We should make more health-improved choices.

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