It's no surprise that lifestyle is a major factor in heart health. A few changes in your daily routine could mean the difference between a healthy, long life and a premature demise.
"About 80 million Nigerians are estimated to have high blood pressure." - Dr. Amadi
In this 8th edition of the #AskFamasi discussion, Dr. Chinasa Trinitta Amadi and Dr. Chike Opara discussed the lifestyle choices that can give you better heart health and increase your chances of living longer. Read on to learn more.
Click here to read the previous edition on erectile dysfunction
What does "heart health" mean?
Heart health simply involves any condition that affects your heart.
It's the leading cause of death worldwide, which is why you need to pay attention to your heart health.
What are heart conditions and their examples?
Any sickness or condition that affects your heart in any way is “heart disease”.
Common heart conditions include:
- Heart attack
- Hypertension or high blood pressure (blood pressure above 120/80)
- Heart Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Cardiomyopathy (difficulty in blood pumping)
In a recent statistics released on World Hypertension Day 2022, about 80 million Nigerians are estimated to have high blood pressure (or hypertension). This is without accounting for undetected hypertension cases.
So, what lifestyle choices can affect the heart?
While heart conditions like hypertension can be hereditary, studies have shown that hypertension is not majorly caused by genetic factors.
This means that if your parents are hypertensive, there’s a chance (about 10 - 70%) that you might not get hypertensive. This goes to show that genetics contribute less compared to your lifestyle choices.
Other lifestyle choices that can cause unhealthy heart health conditions include:
- Inadequate sleep
- Drug abuse
- Harmful diet
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Socio-economic factors (such as income level, employment status, etc.)
Does cholesterol intake affect the heart?
High cholesterol is an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis, a condition where fat clogs the blood vessels. This can lead to an immediate heart attack if it worsens.
Therefore, high cholesterol can be bad for your heart if it has to do more work to produce blood for flow.
What lifestyle changes can improve heart health?
- Reduce stress
- Get more sleep
- Consistent exercise
- Keep a healthy weight
- Do frequent health checkups
- Take less cholesterol
- Eat healthy food and fruits
- Social connectedness
What food choices can improve heart health?
Speaking frankly, most Nigerian diets do not pose major risks to your health. In fact, the only problem is with the cooking of these diets. For instance, adding too much salt or oil to your meals is the culprit.
So, eating fruits and healthy foods that contain less animal protein and more plant-based nutrients and vegetables can improve your heart health.
Also, reduce how often you eat fast foods or add too many spices to your home-cooked meals.
What physical activities can help your heart?
It's recommended to do about 150 minutes of moderate activity each week to improve your heart health.
However, if you have a chronic condition, 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is advised.
Some activities you can do to improve your heart health include:
- Climbing staircase
What is the impact of stress on heart conditions?
Stress can reduce the amount of time you have to sleep, which causes unrest for the heart. This puts you at risk of hypertension.
If I just had heart surgery, when can I have sex or climb stairs?
It's advisable to ask the medical practitioner who performed the surgery. They’ll be able to guide you based on your status.
However, you should know that sex is a physically demanding activity that can increase your heart rate.
At what point do I need to start medication after making lifestyle changes?
You’ll need to consult your doctor to find out when you can begin medications or if they're needed.
There are certain conditions that’ll require medications and lifestyle changes. Therefore, it is necessary to see a practitioner to be able to ascertain if you need medications.
How often should you check your blood pressure level?
If you have a family history or have already been diagnosed as hypertensive, it's recommended to check your blood pressure level at least once weekly.
Click here to learn how to check your blood pressure accurately
Healthy living doesn't always come easily. So, whether or not you know you have a problem, it's never too late to make better choices and gain control of your life.
By combining a few lifestyle changes, particularly regarding diet, exercise, and stress reduction — you can help manage your heart health.
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