Men and women are very different. No one will deny that. But, did you know that men are at a much higher risk than women of having a heart attack? If that weren’t bad enough for men, there’s also the fact that men tend to have heart attacks at younger ages than women (45 instead of 55). In fact, between 70% and 89% of all sudden cardiac events happen to men.
Since men are at such high risk for heart attacks, it’s important for them to know ways to reduce their chances of having one. It’s true that you can’t help being a man, and you can’t help getting older, but you can do all sorts of things to make sure your ticker is in top shape. What follows are the most important and scientifically established ways to help reduce your heart attack risk.
Sure it may look cool to be a smoker if you’re a character in a movie or TV show, but there are far too many reasons why it just isn’t a good idea. By now everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but many people focus exclusively on the risk for lung cancer or other lung diseases. So you might not have heard that smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Smoking increases your blood pressure, lowers your “good” cholesterol (also known as HDL cholesterol), makes it harder for you to exercise, and increases the tendency of your blood to clot. All smokers have a higher risk of heart attack, but younger smokers (under 50) have a higher relative risk (when compared to their nonsmoking peers) than older smokers do.
Keeping A Healthy Cholesterol Level
Sorry guys, but at a certain point, nutrition enters into almost every health discussion. This issue is no different. When it comes to cholesterol, you want to keep your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol as low as possible, and your “good” (HDL) cholesterol up. Why? The bad cholesterol narrows your arteries, making your heart have to work harder, while the good cholesterol actually lowers your risk of heart attack.
Keeping your bad cholesterol levels down can often be achieved by eating a diet low in saturated fats and trans fats. That means it’s time to break away from the tasty fast food fare. A plant-based diet is best for this purpose. Why? Plants do not naturally contain cholesterol; it only comes from animal sources. The best animal sources for lowering blood cholesterol levels are lean meats, poultry, fish, and shellfish. Eating healthy fats, getting plenty of exercise, and quitting smoking can also boost good cholesterol levels.
Keeping Your Blood Pressure In Check
When your blood pressure is too high, your heart has to work harder. The excess work can cause your heart to get too stiff and thick, which can lead to a heart attack. The best ways to keep your blood pressure under control are to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, eat a diet without too much salt, and keep your stress levels under control. You should be aiming for a blood pressure below 120/80.
The good news is that all of these lifestyle changes are also things that will naturally reduce your risk of heart attacks from other causes. And each lifestyle change helps make the others easier. For example, exercise helps reduce stress; eating a balanced diet helps maintain your weight; reducing stress helps you avoid eating for comfort.
Smoking, high blood pressure, and high LDL cholesterol are the three main risk factors for heart disease. If you smoke, have high blood pressure or cholesterol issues, or you don’t know your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, talk to your doctor for help. But if you’re already in the clear for these three big factors, here are some other ways you can reduce your risk:
- Keep your weight at healthy levels for your height
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control
- Exercise regularly
- Keep stress in check
- Avoid stimulant drugs
- Avoid excess drinking
- Eat a plant-based diet full of whole grains and healthy fats
You’ve probably heard a lot of these tips before. But remember, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men both worldwide and in the United States – where it accounts for one in every four male deaths. It’s best to start as early as you can on living a heart-healthy lifestyle – and talk to your doctor if you need help making some changes. The earlier you start, the greater the benefits, and the easier it will come to you. After all, we’ve all heard about the problems encountered when trying to teach an old dog, new tricks!