There are many factors that contribute to the prevalence of heart attack (MI) and stroke (“brain attack”). Both heart attack and stroke can be acute manifestations of the vascular disease known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a vascular condition by which a fatty plaque forms within an artery wall and compromises its ability to deliver blood. When this happens in a coronary artery it is called a heart attack. When this happens in an artery delivering blood to the brain, it is called a stroke (although there are different types of stroke).
Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis
Fighting atherosclerosis will, in turn, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The following are risk factors for atherosclerosis and tips on how to control them:
- Move more!– Because our bodies are built for movement, not getting enough movement throughout the day contributes to the risk of vascular diseases. Therefore, try parking a little further than usual at your job to get the extra steps, take the stairs whenever possible, and take small walking/ergonomic breaks when working at a desk for long hours.
- Sit less-Try to avoid being a “couch potato” on your free time and engage in activities that are more active and social. Maybe you can cook dinner with a friend, or even go window shopping. Above all, the point is to get as much movement in to counteract excessive sitting.
High Blood Pressure
- Check your Blood Pressure- High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading contributor to vascular diseases which will progress to heart attack or stroke. If you can, buy an at-home blood pressure monitor and stay aware of your vascular health.
- Exercise!– Movement helps lower resting heart rate which will have a direct effect on blood pressure. Similarly, exercise regulates blood glucose and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol which contributes to atherosclerosis.
- Eat More Plants –A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats is a preventive measure to the development of heart disease and stroke. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” is based on this fact. As a result, people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables tend to have longer lives and of better quality.
- Antioxidants-Antioxidants are counteractive to the effects of oxidative stress which causes direct damage to the vascular lining. Consequently, eating lots of antioxidants, like fruits and berries, can prevent damage to the vascular lining.
Being overweight or obese
- Watch your Weight!-It is important to maintain a healthy body weight as a preventive measure to heart attack and stroke. The excess weight represents an extra physical stress on the body which is directly tied to vascular (blood vessel) health. As a result, being overweight or obese is related to comorbidities including high LDL (bad) cholesterol, high blood sugar, and chronic pains.
- Don’t Smoke-If you are a smoker, try to stop (seek help if necessary). Smoking damages the vascular lining and is a major contribution to the formation of plaques in blood vessels. It is these plaques that can rupture and block blood flow to the heart, or break-off and obstruct blood delivery to the brain.
- Advocate-If you are living or work in a building where cigarette smoke is constantly a problem, speak up!! Second-hand smoke is just as if not more dangerous than smoking yourself. While smokers might get upset, so should you, it is harmful to your health and to the health of others.
- Meditate- Meditating counteracts the effect of stress by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is most known for rest-and-digest and its ability to counteract the sympathetic nervous system, fight-or-flight. As a result, meditation can help alleviate many of the adverse effects of stress.
- Mindfulness- First of all, taking the time to enjoy the moment and appreciate it has profound effects on vascular health. So, take the time to enjoy your meals, your social interactions and time with family and friends. Finally, be present.
Too much alcohol
- Watch your alcohol intake-Small amounts of alcohol can counteract the formation of plaques in blood vessels by inhibiting platelet activity. Platelets are cells in our blood that create “plugs” to heal vascular injuries. These can be major contributors to plaque formation and the formation of blood clots.
Interested in improving your overall health and lowering your potential risks of heart problems? Want to remove pain, increase performance, or lose weight? Contact Santa Cruz CORE and schedule a consultation today!