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The Five Steps for Heart Attack Prevention

Did you know that you can modify most risk factors associated with a heart attack by simply modifying behavior and following a few easy steps. This is an easy-to-remember list of five preventive measures for people without symptoms or history of coronary heart disease.

Step 1: Take Low-Dose Aspirin

Low-dose aspirin (81 mg per day) for men ages 45 to 79, whose risk of a heart attack exceeds their risk of gastrointestinal bleeding from aspirin. It is not recommended solely to prevent heart attacks in women. However, aspirin can be considered for stroke prevention in women ages 55 to 79 if their risk of a stroke exceeds their risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Be sure to consult with a physician before starting aspirin therapy.

Step 2: Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control

Maintaining a blood pressure of <140/90 mm Hg (ideal is <120/80 mm Hg); and <130/80 mm Hg for people with diabetes or kidney disease. If you cannot reach this goal after three months of lifestyle changes, you may benefit from medications that reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Step 3: Lower Your Cholesterol

Total cholesterol <200 mg/dL; LDL cholesterol <160 mg/dL for people with no more than one risk factor for a heart attack; LDL <130 mg/dL for those with two or more risk factors; LDL <100 mg/dL (with an optional goal of <70 mg/dL) for people with diabetes, history of stroke or aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease, or coronary heart disease; HDL >40 mg/dL for men and HDL >50 mg/dL for women (and preferably >60 mg/dL for both men and women), triglycerides <150 mg/dL.

If you cannot reach your LDL goal after three months of lifestyle changes, consider drug therapy to lower your LDL. Exercise, improvements in diet, and quitting smoking can help you meet your HDL goals.

Step 4: Watch your diet

Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, legumes, poultry, and lean meats. Saturated fats should make up <7% of total calories. If overweight, reduce caloric intake and increase physical activity to achieve and maintain a desirable body weight (body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9). For those who drink, limit alcohol intake (no more than two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women).

Step 5: Walk or do some form of exercise every day

Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) at least five days of the week. More vigorous activity can provide additional benefits, including weight loss if caloric expenditure exceeds caloric intake.

High Blood Pressure - Know Your Enemy

  • ♥ High blood pressure is present in about half of those individuals having a first-time heart attack, and two-thirds of those having first-time strokes.
  • ♥ More than 50 million people in the United States over age six (and one in four adults) have high blood pressure.
  • ♥ Forty-Five million Americans (22 percent of adults) have pre hypertension, which is ones blood pressure that is borderline between normal and elevated.
  • ♥ Nearly a third (30 percent) of people with high blood pressure don't know they have it. Another 36 percent either aren't on medication or don't have their blood pressure adequately controlled.
  • ♥ The majority of people with mild to moderate high blood pressure do not have any noticeable symptoms.
  • ♥ One in three cases of heart failure in women results from high blood pressure.
  • ♥ Blood pressure tends to get higher as women age. More than half of women over age 50 suffer from high blood pressure.
  • ♥ High blood pressure is two to three times more common in women taking birth control pills than those not taking them. The risk is especially high in women who take the pill and are overweight or obese.
  • ♥ Untreated, high blood pressure will cause the heart to overwork itself to the point where, eventually, serious damage can occur.
  • ♥ People who have had a heart attack are less likely to experience a second one if they lower their blood pressure.

Weight Loss Tips

Choose High Quality, Heathful Foods

"Start eating real food -- nothing in boxes, cans or cartons," says Elliott Prag, Instructor at the Natural Gourmet Institute. "Get rid of all processed food. You will lose weight if you start doing that." According to Prag, while you’re at it, reduce your intake of simple carbs like white flour and sugar, as research suggests a possible link between simple carbs and Type 2 Diabetes. Quality is critical but quantity is also very important.

Don't Skip Meals

"That’s very important," says Prag. "When you don’t eat enough, your body feels hungry and lowers its metabolic rate. The end result: You may hold onto extra weight by eating less."

Additionally, those seeking to lose weight should schedule three meals a day at similar times to ensure a steady supply of energy, starting with a healthy breakfast – like a whole grain cereal, a vegetable and some protein.

Not eating breakfast sets us up for a drop in blood sugar before lunch - prompting snacking on something quick and unhealthy. When planning a meal, gauge your hunger level, so you make the right amount. Choose a combination of protein, like fish, beans, nuts and seeds; high quality fat, such as extra virgin olive oil, unrefined sesame oil, or flax seed oil; and complex carbohydrates from whole grains and beans, sweet vegetables (yams, parsnips or winter squashes), and leafy greens.

For snacks, try a smaller version of the protein/fat/carb combo - such as a whole grain crackers with raw vegetables and hummus or nut butter.

Protein is a star ingredient; it satisfies your appetite and a little bit goes a long way. The USDA recommends about 5 to 6.5 ounces a day for adults.

Turn Off the TV

Our television can be a quiet culprit in our weight gain and deterrent in weight loss efforts. You know you probably should not, but sometimes do eat in front of the television or computer. What most people do not realize is how much it affects our waistline. Studies show that we eat approximately 40 percent more when watching TV and we are more likely to eat junk food while distracted. To lose weight more effectively, power down your TV, computer or smart phone during dinner and concentrate only on your meal.

Fill Your (Small) Plate

According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist and 'mindless eating' expert at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, those who fill their plate with everything they plan to eat (including dessert) eat about 14 percent less than those who don’t fill it as much but return for second (or more) helpings. So to eat less, load up your plate -- but only once. To reduce your intake even more, use a smaller plate. Wansink also found that those who served themselves using smaller dishes ate up to 60 percent less.

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