World Heart Day, which takes place on September 29th, is an opportunity to recall the right reflexes to adopt to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is far from being a fatality…
1 – Eat a real breakfast
Skipping the first meal of the day is not trivial. Nutritionists at Harvard University (USA) have calculated that the number of heart attacks is 27% higher among those who do not eat breakfast. The explanation advanced: the absence of morning meals would lead to more calories during the other meals. It would also rhyme with another bad habit which increases the risk of infarction by 55%: nibbling late in the evening.
2 – Brush your teeth well
Oral hygiene is essential. To keep a pretty smile, of course, but less well known is the prevention of cardiovascular disease. An American study has just shown it: without brushing, dental plaque accumulates, gums become fragile, and the resulting bleeding causes bacteria to pass from the mouth into the bloodstream, where they contribute to the formation of blood clots.
3 – Focus on endurance sports
The heart is a muscle. The more it is trained, the better it works. Above all, it likes endurance sports, i.e., long and regular exercise (running, cycling, hiking, swimming…). One hour of walking at a pace of 6 to 7 kilometers per hour, 3 times a week, can improve the heat pump’s performance by 12%… Are you far from it? Don’t panic. If it is estimated that at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day (or 10,000 steps) are necessary to maintain your heart, the important thing is to move, and a few minutes are better than nothing at all …
4 – Quit Smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cardiovascular death. “A consumption of 3 to 4 cigarettes per day multiplies the relative risk of a cardiovascular accident by 3”, summarizes the French Federation of Cardiology. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate, poor oxygenation of the blood, risk of coronary spasm and thrombosis… The good news is that it is never too late to stop, and the effects of quitting Smoking are very rapid.
5 – Beware of salt
We consume a lot of it. On the order of 10 grams per day for men and 8 for women, we should not exceed 5 grams. Excess salt, which is directly related to high blood pressure, dramatically increases heart disease and stroke risk. It is better to have a light hand on the salt shaker but, above all, to hunt down the salt hidden in food, which represents 70 to 80% of our consumption: bread, rusks, cold meats, ready-made meals (pizzas, quiches, etc.), canned food, industrial sauces, etc.
6 – Regularly measure your waist circumference
The heart doesn’t like extra pounds, especially when lodged in the belly. The waist circumference is much more relevant than the body mass index (BMI = kg/m2) to assess cardiovascular risk. “It is necessary to be vigilant if the waist circumference is ≥ 88 cm in women and ≥ 102 cm in men”, warns the French Federation of Cardiology. These figures reflect abdominal obesity. The overweight starts respectively at 80 and 94 cm waist circumference.
7- Check his cholesterol level every 5 years.
Essential to the body, cholesterol is a fat transported in the blood by two carriers: LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol, and HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol. The first clog the arteries while the second cleans them. The problem? The problem is that in the case of hypercholesterolemia, “bad” cholesterol tends to accumulate on the artery walls (this is called atherosclerosis), hindering or preventing the passage of blood and forming clots. To avoid this, a cholesterol test is recommended every 5 years. It is carried out by taking blood on an empty stomach.
8 – Monitoring blood pressure from the age of 40 onwards
Hypertension (hypertension) is high blood pressure in the arteries. It tires the heart prematurely by imposing an overload of work on it and promotes atherosclerosis. As there are no symptoms to suspect it, the only way to detect it is to measure blood pressure at least once a year from the age of 40 (or 20 in hypertension before the age of 50 in one of the parents). Except in exceptional cases, normal blood pressure is less than 14/9. You can also have regular check-ups, in particular, to detect the possible presence of a murmur in the heart.
9 – Learning to manage stress
It is now proven: chronic stress is bad for the heart. It is said to be the most significant contributor to heart attacks after tobacco and cholesterol. Not only because it accelerates the heart rate, increases blood pressure, and changes clotting, but also because it encourages Smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating more fat and sugar. So it’s time to think about taking care of yourself and relaxing through sports, yoga, relaxation, or meditation, for example.
10 – Eat 2 squares of dark chocolate a day
Regular consumers of dark chocolate have a lower risk of heart attack or stroke. This is said to lie in the cocoa powder that composes it, which is very rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that limit the formation of bad cholesterol and the increase in blood pressure, and magnesium, which is essential in the fight against stress. The ideal? Consume 1 to 2 squares per day (10 to 20 g).
11 – Adopt the Mediterranean diet
By inviting the South to your table, you reduce your cardiovascular disease risk by 30%. On the menu: little red meat, cold cuts, and butter, but lots of fish (especially fatty fish: salmon, sardine, mackerel), vegetables and fruit (at least 5 per day), dried fruit, cereals (preferably unrefined), legumes (beans, peas, lentils…), olive or rapeseed oil. Discover our advice for a balanced diet.
12 – Avoid soft drinks
Daily consumption of soda, whether low-fat or not, leads to a 48% increase in the risk of metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, hypertension, excess weight, etc.), a prerequisite for heart problems and diabetes, itself a factor in cardiovascular disease. Explanation: not satisfied to bring sugar in too great quantity (1 can represent 10 teaspoons of sugar), these drinks also push to eat more. In short, if it is not forbidden to have fun with a soda from time to time, water remains the surest value to quench your thirst.
13 – Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night
Today it is inevitable: sleep is good for the heart in particular. However, it is necessary to sleep neither too much nor too little. At least that’s what American researchers have shown, with figures to back it up. People who sleep less than six hours a night see their risk of stroke and heart attack double, while those who sleep more than eight hours see their risk of angina pectoris double and their risk of coronary heart disease 1.1 times.
14 – Going out with friends
Loneliness is the enemy of the heart. Literally and figuratively. According to the French Federation of Cardiology, “people who are alone or deprived of social relations are twice as likely as others to develop cardiovascular disease.” Isolation is, in fact, synonymous with a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, and increased stress, itself responsible for Smoking, low diet, and high blood pressure (higher among isolated people). Hence the importance of going out, seeing people, having fun, and sharing with others.