General Health

Healthy Choices for Healthy Living 2

Cont’d from episode 1

The heart is one of the most important organs in the body and diseases affecting it are one of the commonest causes of death in our environment. Some heart conditions cannot be prevented e.g heart defects but a great number can be with the right lifestyle and diet. Preventing heart disease will require making smart choices today that will pay off your entire life. These choices include:

Stop smoking if you do
Smoking is incredibly harmful and the safest way to smoke is not to smoke at all. It has no health benefits whatsoever. In fact, it has been implicated as a risk factor in many health conditions and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says smoking is the commonest preventable cause of death. It damages the entire cardiovascular system by narrowing blood vessels, raises blood pressure and increases the risks for a stroke. It has been found to cause 1 in 5 deaths from heart disease so protect your heart and drop that cigarette or cigar.

Reduce alcohol intake
If you must drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can raise fat levels in the blood and put you at risk for a heart disease; it can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and even diabetes mellitus. Excessive drinking can lead to a stroke or sudden cardiac death. So how much alcohol is safe for drinking? Some studies have shown that there are some heart health benefits from alcohol especially red wine to older men and menopausal women but the exact amount isn’t clear and there are healthier ways to protect your heart.

Control health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol levels
In our environment, hypertension (BP greater than 140/90) is the commonest cause of heart disease. It presents normally with no symptoms as the body can adapt to the high pressure for months or years while causing unseen damage to the heart, kidney, brain and eyes. Eventually the patient may present with heart failure, renal failure, stroke or sudden death. The blood pressure should be checked and monitored frequently in young people and adults and then put under control as soon as possible under the supervision of a trained medical doctor. Diabetes as well has harmful effects on every area of the body so fasting blood glucose should be monitored and controlled adequately. This will be discussed extensively in the next article.

Low salt and saturated fat diet
A diet high in salt predisposes a person to raised blood pressure so there should be no added salt to the food when prepared. Also, fast foods and processed foods should be taken minimally. Saturated fats like fatty beef, pork, lamb, butter, cheese cause increased cholesterol levels so they should be replaced with healthier options like whole grains, poultry without the skin, fish. You can never go wrong with increased fruits and vegetables. Intake of red meat and sugary beverages should also be limited.

For a healthy heart, you should engage in cardio exercises (exercise that target the heart) e.g brisk walking, skipping, jogging, dancing for about 30minutes a day most days of the week. This not only helps the heart, it keeps you in shape and at a healthy weight. So take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a walk instead of getting in the car, help your heart whatever chance you get.

Reduce and manage stress
This might seem impossible for some people but like every machine, your heart can get over worked and break down. Find ways to eliminate stressful conditions, worry less, forgive more, create resting time, get adequate sleep, laugh more, spend time with loved ones and breathe. Your heart has a full time job, help


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Dr. Thelma Okafor
Dr Thelma Okafor, a Medical Doctor is passionate about having a healthier Nation with accessible health care and citizens who are proactive about their health. She enjoys reading, writing and engaging in intellectually stimulating discussions. When she isn’t practising medicine, she likes to watch movies, explore the outdoors or lounge with friends.

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