We have become accustomed to hearing that the factors that harm a healthy heart are those of Western societies; however, if we eliminate risk behaviours, we would avoid 80% of cardiovascular diseases.
In addition to the immutable aspects such as age, sex or genetic inheritance, which predispose cardiovascular health, there are others that we can modify by applying prevention. With the help of BBVA Switzerland and Advance Medical
we offer you five keys to keep your heart healthy.
1. Heart healthy fats and less salt
Healthy eating habits can help to reduce three of the main factors involved in heart disease: high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess weight. There is no need for a radical change in diet but simply to eat more fruit, vegetables, cereals, lean meat and fish
- Consume more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil is the best example of monounsaturated fat (extra virgin if possible) as it contains oleic acid and Polyphemus that have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. Other foods rich in these types of fats are: avocados, olives, almonds, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are key polyunsaturated fats. They have a high cardio-protective effect as they increase HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 is found in oily fish (tuna, sardines, anchovies, salmon, herring…), flax-seed and sesame seeds and nuts.
- At the same time, consumption of saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats should be reduced, by eating less fatty red meat, high-fat cheese, cold meats and sausage, industrial cakes and pastries, margarine, and processed food.
- Salt should be cut back to no more than one teaspoon a day, including salt added to meals and salt in precooked food, bread, cheese, cold meats and sausage, preserves, cured products, snacks… which add a large amount. A high salt intake can lead to high blood pressure and the risk of developing potentially serious cardiovascular problems such as heart failure or heart attacks.
- Exercise every day
Diet + exercise is key to maintaining a healthy heart. Stay active, aiming for five hours of exercise a week
(walking also counts). This helps keep all cardiovascular risk factors (cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes) in check. Exercise also has important psychological benefits, helping to reduce stress and enhance mental well-being.
- Aerobic exercise such as running, brisk walking, swimming or cycling is most recommended. But it should be supplemented with flexibility and strength-building activities. Studies show that exercising at least three times a week for 30 minutes can help strengthen the heart. It is important to start doing physical activity on a regular basis, and above all to maintain the habit.
- Watch your weight and your waistline
More and more people are now overweight or obese and this is an important risk factor for heart health: it is a predisposing factor for high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, etc.
- Approximately 40% of coronary heart disease can be attributed to having a body mass index (BMI) of over 25. Therefore, it is essential that we all know our BMI and act accordingly. BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight (in kilos) by the square of their height (in meters). A figure of above 30 indicates obesity and in such cases it is essential to gradually start losing weight, as this has been proved to significantly reduce the risk of heart attack.
- It is particularly important to avoid abdominal obesity (where fat has built up around the abdominal organs). This is calculated by dividing a person's waist measurement by their hip measurement (in cm) and should not be more than 0.8 for women and 1 for men. The waist-to-hip ratio is a reliable parameter for identifying abdominal obesity. It has been demonstrated that if obese people lose 5% of their body weight they will reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. This can done by taking on board the first two keys: exercise and a healthy diet.
- Do you smoke? Give up immediately!
Smoking is one of the main factors that can be avoided or changed to decrease the risk of heart disease. Smoking has a harmful effect on the cardiovascular system
, increasing the risk of thrombosis and narrowing the arteries, thereby restricting blood supply to the heart.
Smokers are three times more likely to suffer coronary heart disease, and this risk becomes greater the longer a person has smoked and the more cigarettes they smoke a day. Nicotine damages the arteries, increases levels of bad cholesterol (and reduces levels of good cholesterol), increasing the risk of blood clots, while carbon monoxide causes the heart to receive less oxygen, in addition to increasing cholesterol. Therefore, smoking and passive smoking should both be avoided at all cost.
- Live at a slower pace
Stress can also affect the heart. Heart attacks are more likely to occur during moments of stress
, as the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises. When this happens, the heart needs more oxygen. This does not mean that stress causes cardiovascular disease but it appears that it can be a predisposing or worsening factor.
Therefore, it is important to take our foot off the accelerator from our lives
We must learn to distinguish what is urgent from what is important for us, and find time for relaxing, pleasurable activities. For some this will be exercise, for others a walk in nature, reading, practicing relaxation techniques or meditation, or cooking… Finding a balance between commitments and leisure, so that we can enjoy our free time and disconnect from the stress of our working lives is extremely necessary.
BBVA in Switzerland committed to your good health
BBVA in Switzerland, in conjunction with Advance Medical, offers its clients the possibility of requesting a second expert medical opinion from the best specialists worldwide
An exclusive service for our Private Banking clients.
For further information, please contact your Investment Advisor.