Cardiovascular disease and more specifically ischaemic heart disease is the commonest cause of death worldwide and there is an increasing trend despite significant technological advances in treating the disease once it has been diagnosed. This has to do with less effort paid in prevention which is directly linked with our way of life.
The social habits and dietary patterns adopted by people living in developed countries have led to a massive surge of cardiovascular conditions and it is only recently that resources are actually utilised in an attempt to modify people's way of life to prevent heart disease.
The main risk factors for developing coronary artery disease are smoking, diabetes, high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and family history. The more of the above risk factors that a person has, the more chances they have of developing heart disease. For this reason it is important to maintain a lifestyle that does not facilitate the development of these risk factors in order to keep a low cardiovascular risk.
Smoking alone doubles the chance of developing coronary artery disease and stroke. It has been demonstrated by studies that cessation of smoking significantly lowers one's risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke. For this reason stopping smoking is considered the single most important measure in lowering the incidence of heart disease.
Following a healthy diet is also very important. Healthy eating involves eating more fruit and vegetables (plant-based products) and less saturated fat-rich food such as fatty red meat, butter, hard margarine and dairy products. Generally fast food is very rich in bad cholesterol and unwanted calories and should be avoided.
Food rich in unsaturated fat (good cholesterol) include olive, sunflower and nut oil, seeds, oily fish and avocado.
Food high in sugar content should also be minimised or be avoided, especially by people with diabetes.
A routine blood cholesterol and glucose (sugar) level check is advisable to identify possible high levels which can be dealt with, either by diet alone or medication.
A "healthy heart check up" should always include blood pressure readings as high blood pressure or hypertension is also a very important risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Sometimes serial measurements might be necessary to identify those patients who require medication to control it.
Regular exercise in the form of any aerobic activity (walking, running, swimming, cycling etc) maintains a healthy balance between calorie intake and consumption, prevents obesity, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and lowers cardiovascular risk.