More on Preventing Heart Attack
Prevent Heart Attack: Page 3
7. Encourage regular exercise.
Exercise is essential for general cardiovascular health and is key to preventing a heart attack. But how much exercise is enough? The Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association recommend accumulating at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week on most days. This doesn't mean you and your loved ones need to do half an hour of aerobics five days a week; instead, aim for short bursts of activity throughout the day. Just parking farther away from the store and walking the extra distance, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can quickly add up. But before beginning any exercise program, be sure to talk to a doctor about any restrictions you or your loved ones may have.
8. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for heart disease. The best way to determine whether you or your loved ones are overweight or obese is to calculate body mass index, or BMI. You can calculate BMI at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website. People with a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 are considered overweight; people with a BMI of 30.0 or greater are considered obese. If you or someone close to you meets either of these criteria, talk to a doctor about setting safe weight-loss goals. The best way to lose weight is by limiting calories and increasing activity, but if that approach is unsuccessful, counseling or even medical intervention may be necessary.
9. Stop smoking.
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for heart attack. If you or your loved ones smoke, quitting can reduce risk of heart attack by 50 percent or more. But recognize that stopping smoking isn't easy. Here are a few ways you can help those close to you:
- Ask them what they think would make it easier for them. They may have suggestions you haven't thought of.
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and what they're going through. Smoking may be a comforting lifelong habit; let them mourn a little.
- You may be tempted to nag or yell if they slip up, but it's more effective to remind them that you love them no matter what. Be positive and encouraging -- and vent your frustration to a friend instead.
- Help them avoid situations that trigger the desire for a smoke. If they're used to enjoying a cigarette after meals, try going for a short walk outside instead.
- Be understanding as they go through withdrawal symptoms. Try not to take it personally if they're especially irritable, short-tempered, and tired.
- Quit smoking yourself. If you must smoke, don't smoke around your loved ones. Not only will it make quitting more difficult for them, but the secondhand smoke will increase their risk of heart attack.
If your loved ones find it too difficult to quit on their own, talk to their doctor. Nicotine replacement therapy, support groups, and counseling may all be helpful.
10. Manage stress and depression.
Your loved ones' emotional and psychological state can have a very real effect on their physical health. An important aspect of maintaining good cardiovascular health and avoiding heart attack is minimizing stress, anger, and depression. If one of your parents live alone, for example, he or she may feel disconnected and alone. Encourage him or her to get out, make new friends, or simply engage in stimulating activities. A local church or community center is an excellent place to connect with other older adults.
Perhaps someone close to you is already a social butterfly but still seems to be having difficulty with his mood. Try these stress-busting strategies:
- Cut back on caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
- Try meditation or yoga.
- Play relaxing music.
- Go for a walk outdoors.
If you've tried everything and still feel concerned about a loved one's mood, talk to his doctor. Depression is a serious but treatable illness.