There are two important areas to consider when it comes to preventing a first — or subsequent — heart attack. The first one is knowing your family history. Heart disease can have a genetic component and can cluster in families. If close relatives have had heart disease, this may put you at a higher risk for developing problems. Being aware of your family’s heart history and sharing that information with your doctor will allow you to work together to prevent a heart attack.
While you can’t control your family history, you can control another risk factor for heart attacks, and that is your lifestyle choices.
For instance, if you smoke, stop. If you drink alcohol in excess, limit it. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise. All of these factors are within your control.
Choosing a heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your favorite meals, but it does mean you should consider controlling your portion sizes, eliminating processed foods (which are often loaded with unhealthy “trans” fats) and replacing saturated fats in your diet with the healthy ones.
A heart-healthy diet should include:
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week (this would include salmon, tuna and trout)
- Legumes (kidney and lima beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, etc.)
- Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, asparagus and leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Whole grains
It’s also important to learn the difference between “good fats” and “bad fats” so you can make sure you’re getting the proper kind in your diet. Avoid trans fats completely. Also look for heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some of the foods with these fats are:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive, canola, peanut, safflower, sesame oils
- Peanut butter
- Salmon and trout
In addition to food choices, there are some other lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health. They include:
- Reducing the amount of stress in your life.
- Exercising at least 30 minutes three days a week. Not only will this help reduce stress, but it also strengthens your heart muscle and keeps the blood flowing.
- Reducing your sodium intake.
- Replacing sugary drinks and sodas with water and drinks sweetened with the healthy, all-natural sweetener stevia.
- Quit cigarettes and e-cigarettes.Making such lifestyle choices will not just help you live longer, it will help you enjoy your years with more energy.