Preventing Heart Disease
Preventing Heart Disease - A Summary
You should not smoke
If you smoke, stopping smoking is often the single most effective thing that you can do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. The risk falls rapidly as soon as you stop smoking
Take some regular exercise
Anything that gets you mildly out of breath and a little sweaty is fine. A brisk walk each day is what many people do - and that is fine. However, research studies suggest that the more vigorous the exercise, the better for health - particularly for preventing heart disease. To gain most benefit you should do at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days (at least five days a week).
Eat a healthy diet. Briefly this means:
- AT LEAST five portions, ideally more, of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day.
- THE BULK OF MOST MEALS should be starch-based foods (such as cereals, wholegrain bread, potatoes, rice, pasta), plus fruit and vegetables.
- NOT MUCH fatty food such as fatty meats, cheeses, full-cream milk, fried food, butter, etc. Use low fat, mono-, or poly-unsaturated spreads.
- INCLUDE 2-3 portions of fish per week. At least one of which should be 'oily'.
- LIMIT SALT to no more than 6g a day (and less for children). This is about a teaspoon of salt.
- If you eat meat it is best to eat lean meat, or poultry such as chicken.
- If you do fry, choose a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil.
Try to lose weight if you are overweight or obese
The increased health risk of obesity is most marked when the excess fat is mainly in the abdomen rather than on the hips and thighs. As a rule, a waist measurement of 102 cm or above for men (92 cm for Asian men) and 88 cm or above for women (78 cm for Asian women) is a significant health risk. If you are obese or overweight you can greatly reduce you health risk by losing 5-10% of your weight.
Have your blood pressure checked at least every 3-5 years
High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms, so you will not know if it is high unless you have it checked. Treatment may be advised if your blood pressure remains high.
Have a cholesterol check if aged 40 or more, or if you have a strong family history
A high level of cholesterol adds to your increased risk, but it can be lowered with treatment. All people aged 40 or more should have a blood cholesterol check. It is also usually advised at any age if you have an increased risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
Don't drink too much alcohol
A small amount of alcohol (1-2 units per day) may help to protect you from heart disease. However, too much can be harmful. Men should drink no more than 21 units per week. Women should drink no more than 14 units per week (
Further help and information
British Heart Foundation