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Simple lifestyle changes that can help prevent a heart attack

by , 14 March 2016

So we've just finished breast cancer awareness month, but the number one killer of men and women in the Western world remains cardiovascular disease, which kills more people than ALL cancers combined.

Every 34 seconds someone in South Africa has a heart attack. It's a frightening statistic indeed...

So is it inevitable? The simple answer is simply no. Heart attacks are preventable, and people who are dying or are maimed by weak hearts do not need to suffer.

Several essential recently completed studies demonstrate how easy it is to protect yourself against heart attacks. Here are three, along with what they mean for you.

Three studies reveal lifestyle changes that can protect you against heart attack

#1: The MORGEN Study
Researchers in the Netherlands studied almost 18,000 men and women without heart disease. They followed them for up to 14 years, and more than 600 of the group had heart attacks including deaths. They found that if people followed four steps they were able to lower their risk of heart attacks by 67%:
  • Averaging 30 minutes a day of physical activity.
  • Eating a healthy diet in the Mediterranean style rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Enjoying more than one alcoholic beverage a month.
  • Not smoking.

People who added a fifth health habit — sleeping seven or more hours at night on average — lowered their risk of heart attacks by 83% compared to those not following these steps.
#2: The Karolinska Study 
Scientists in Sweden examined more than 20,000 men free of heart disease and followed them for 11 years. They found that there were certain habits that lowered the risk of heart attacks, including:
  • A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and reduced fat.
  • No smoking.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption daily.
  • Thin waistlines.
  • More than 40 minutes of daily physical activity.

Men who followed all five of these lifestyle habits had an 86% lower chance of developing or dying of heart attacks than those who followed none. Sadly, only 1% of the Swedes studied followed all five habits!
#3: The Caerphilly Study
In England, 2,235 men were followed for an amazing 30 years. Five behaviors were tracked for the development of disease:
  • No smoking.
  • Normal BMI (18-25).
  • More than three servings daily of fruits and vegetables.
  • Walking more than two miles daily.
  • Controlled daily alcohol intake.
Men in this study who followed four or five of these habits delayed the development of vascular disease by 12 years, although only 0.1% actually practiced all five! Furthermore, dementia was nearly 70% lower in those following these habits.

Six simple habits to adopt to help prevent heart attack

The message is clear. While you should learn about xenoestrogens in plastics, endocrine disruptors in toothpaste, air pollution, and plastic additives in bread, six simple habits can make heart attacks nearly extinct. The number one killer of men and women can be tamed with your fork, your feet, your fingers far from cigarettes, and some responsible use of a small glass of wine.
So it's as easy as simply sticking to these six simple habits:
  1. Follow a plant-based diet.
  2. Do regular physical activity.
  3. Refrain from smoking.
  4. Only drink alcohol occasionally (if it isn't an issue).
  5. Get adequate sleep every night.
  6. Control your weight.
Help spread the word that lifestyle medicine prevents tragic and needless deaths. 

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