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Promote your heart health with these tips
Cardiovascular diseases are one of the most common causes of death worldwide. But everyone can do a lot to prevent heart attacks, strokes and the like. Experts explain what helps to keep the heart fit.
It is known that the causes of cardiovascular diseases are mainly poor nutrition and insufficient exercise. Stress, obesity and smoking also put stress on the heart and blood vessels. Then blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels often rise. Those who minimize these risk factors ensure a healthy heart.
Seven tips for your heart
The German Heart Foundation has summarized seven tips for a healthy heart in a current communication:
- Be active, move more
- Eat healthier, avoid sugar
- Pay attention to your weight
- Quit smoking
- Pay attention to your blood pressure
- Keep an eye on your cholesterol level
- Make sure you relax enough in everyday life
Those who exercise regularly prevent heart and vascular diseases as well as diabetes and cancer such as colon or breast cancer. According to the Heart Foundation, endurance exercise is ideal for 30 minutes five days a week. For example, with moderate endurance exercise jogging, fast walking, cycling, swimming, ergometer training or dancing.
It is best to make everyday life as moving as possible: bicycle instead of car and e-scooter, stairs instead of elevator, standing in the office instead of sitting, talking on the phone and working.
"Cardiac patients should discuss their resilience with their doctor," advises Prof. Dr. med. Bernhard Schwaab from the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Heart Foundation and Chief Physician of the Curschmann Clinic on Timmendorfer Strand.
This also applies to people without illness after a long break without sporting activity. Movement not only protects against arteriosclerosis (“vascular calcification”), but also has a positive effect on other body and organ functions such as cell renewal, stimulation of brain activity, metabolic processes in the liver and other organs.
Experts are promoting traditional Mediterranean cuisine because it has been shown to increase protection against heart attack and stroke, but also against other chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer.
"The Mediterranean diet relies on fruits and vegetables, lettuce, legumes, little meat, but rather fish, on olive and rapeseed oil and on herbs instead of salt," explains Prof. Schwaab. Salt binds water in the body, which can promote high blood pressure.
In particular, the daily consumption of sufficient vegetables and fiber can help to avoid overweight or obesity due to the relatively low energy content, which in turn favors high blood pressure. In addition, the dishes of Mediterranean cuisine usually taste delicious and are by no means bland.
Too much sugar in foods and beverages increases the risk of being overweight, high blood pressure and diabetes. Therefore, it is important to avoid sugar in drinks. Sugar is also contained in foods in which we do not suspect large amounts of sugar (yogurt, salad dressings, ketchup). A look at the description of the ingredients can help avoid sugar.
Healthy normal weight
In addition to exercise, the Mediterranean diet promotes gradual weight loss for a healthy normal weight. It is also worthwhile to limit alcohol consumption. Because alcohol has many calories and can indirectly lead to high blood pressure through the increase in weight.
Obesity is an important and common trigger for hypertension. The aim should be a weight with a body mass index (BMI) of 25. The BMI is calculated from: body weight in kg divided by body length² in m. Example: 80 kg: 1.80 (m) ² = BMI 24.7.
Men should aim for less than 102 cm and women less than 88 cm. Belly fat produces hormones and inflammation-promoting messenger substances, which affect blood pressure, among other things. "Every kilo and every centimeter less has a beneficial effect on high blood pressure," says Prof. Schwaab.
It is worth stopping smoking or not starting at all. As the Heart Foundation writes, nicotine is a powerful venom and smoking poison, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and hardening of the arteries.
In Germany, tobacco consumption accounts for 120,000 premature and avoidable deaths per year: caused by heart attacks and strokes, malignant tumors and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The permanent smoking of e-cigarettes can also not be classified as harmless to health.
Avoid high blood pressure
Hypertension is tricky because you don't feel it at first ("silent killer"). Undetected and untreated, the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or kidney damage increases significantly in hypertension.
Therefore, it is essential to measure blood pressure regularly: from the start of school at the pediatrician and later as part of job exams or routine examinations at the family doctor.
We speak of high blood pressure when different upper arm measurements in the doctor's office on different days give values of 140 to 90 mmHg or higher. For self-measurements at home, there is an upper limit of 135 to 85 mmHg. The blood pressure values in practice may also be a little higher, because mostly the patients are a little excited when taking the measurement ("white coat high pressure").
Keep an eye on cholesterol levels
Elevated blood cholesterol levels are an important risk factor for coronary artery disease (CHD), heart attack, and stroke. High LDL cholesterol levels cause vascular changes in the arteries of the heart (arteriosclerosis) and also in the cerebral arteries with the formation of deposits in these vessels (plaques).
"Studies have clearly proven this for decades," says Schwaab. In addition, scientific studies have shown that lowering high cholesterol levels has a positive effect on the course of the disease.
An examination of the cholesterol level during the regular health check from 35 years of age once a year at the family doctor helps prevent infarction.
Pay attention to sufficient relaxation
Stress is omnipresent in many people: at work, in the family, in a relationship and also in their free time: But stress alone does not make you ill, but lack of relaxation.
As the Heart Foundation explains, the body braces itself very well for the acute problem situation under stress: stress hormones are released, blood sugar increases, insulin release increases, the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises.
If the stress continues, these processes do not come to rest and harm the entire body. The result can be inflammatory reactions in the body, in the worst case diabetes, stroke, arteriosclerosis and heart attack or cardiac arrhythmias.
Therefore, pay attention to a balance between stress and relaxation. Provide islands of calm that fill you with life. Activities that make you forget the stress like making music, reading, painting, dancing, cooking with friends, playing with the children, joining a club or attending concerts and sporting events together.
Relaxation techniques are also very helpful: progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, yoga, qigong or tai chi.
Against the inner bastard
How do you manage to follow the tips for a healthy heart despite the inner bastard?
For lifestyle changes, old structures in your own life are usually broken up.
"It is usually difficult," says Prof. He recommends: "It is often helpful to set up fixed anchor points in your living environment: the regular running, walker or cardio sports group in the club, repeated cooking together with family or friends at home and for smokers the exchange with ex-smokers in the self-help group. "(ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- German Heart Foundation: Resolutions for 2020: Seven tips for your heart, (accessed: January 27, 2020), German Heart Foundation