Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is in the top three leading causes of death in the UK, with an average of 66,000 people dying from the condition each year. We know these facts can sound daunting, but it's essential to understand that this is the reality for many people and their families. Once we are aware of the risks, we can take steps to alter our lifestyle and reduce the likelihood of developing CHD.
While there are certain factors for CHD that we cannot change, such as our age or family history, we can make other lifestyle choices to reduce our risk. Once we decide to put our wellbeing first, making small changes to our lifestyle can significantly impact our overall health.
6 Ways You Can Decrease Your Risk of Developing Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease is caused by fatty deposits (atheroma), which gather together and narrow the coronary arteries. The narrowed arteries can reduce or block the flow of blood to the heart muscle, which can cause chest pain (angina), CHD and other severe issues like heart attacks.
If you're wondering what you can do to reduce your risk of developing CHD, here are some lifestyle changes you can make:
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet goes hand in hand with maintaining a healthy weight, reducing cholesterol and keeping your heart functioning properly. A poor diet, which consists of high levels of trans and saturated fats, can cause cholesterol to build up in our arteries. When this happens, we risk many health issues, including CHD.
To help lower your risk of developing CHD, aim to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and oily fish. These foods are full of essential nutrients for a healthy heart. It is also important to remember that not all fats are bad for you. In fact, unsaturated fats, as found in foods like avocados and nuts, can actually help to reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Not only does healthy eating positively affect your physical health, but it can also improve your mental health too! When we eat a nutritious diet, we tend to have more energy, feel happier and are less likely to develop mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
2. Exercise Regularly
We all know that exercise is good for us, but did you know it can also help lower your risk of developing CHD? When we exercise, our heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient at pumping blood around our body. Doing this helps reduce the amount of work our heart has to do, which can also help lower your blood pressure.
Not only this, but exercise can also help to lower cholesterol levels, manage diabetes and weight. Just 30 minutes of light exercise five times a week can make a big difference to your heart health.
Here are some great ways to move your body, which you can easily incorporate into your daily routine:
- Choose to walk instead of driving where possible
- Go for a swim
- Take the stairs instead of using a lift
- Go bike riding
- Have a dance!
3. Quit Smoking
It's no secret that smoking is detrimental to your health, but did you know it's also one of the leading risk factors for developing CHD? Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals that damage your heart and blood vessels. Damage caused by smoking can lead to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which is what causes CHD.
Also, when you smoke, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. The reduction in oxygen means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can possibly do for your heart health.
4. Ensure You Are at a Healthy Weight
Carrying more weight than what is healthy can put extra strain on your heart. Having excess weight often leads to other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
To help lower your risk, it is important to ensure you are at a healthy weight. You can calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) online to see if you are a healthy weight for your height. If your BMI is 25 or over, you are considered overweight, and if it is 30 or over, you are considered obese.
If you can reduce your weight by even a small amount can make a big difference to your heart health. For example, even losing 5-10% of your body weight can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and the risk of developing diabetes.
5. Coronary Heart Disease and Diabetes
If you have diabetes, you have a higher chance of developing CHD than someone without diabetes. Managing your diabetes is essential for lowering your risk of developing any potential heart issues.
You can do certain things to help control your diabetes and reduce your risk of developing CHD. These can include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Continuous management of blood sugar levels
- Exercising regularly to maintain healthy weight
- Take any medication as prescribed by your doctor
6. Manage Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk for CHD and other wellness issues such as strokes and kidney disease. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, it is vital to manage your blood pressure levels, either at home or with the help of a GP.
All the lifestyle changes this article outlined can help reduce your blood pressure. When you look after your body, it looks after you too. Put your physical wellbeing first, and you'll soon notice a difference in how you feel.
No one wants to develop any form of heart disease. However, by making simple lifestyle changes, you can dramatically lower your risk of developing CHD. Your physical wellbeing and overall wellness will thank you! Adopt a healthy lifestyle today and give your heart the best chance possible.
If you do have any heart health concerns, be sure to speak to your doctor.