Cardiovascular diseases account for one third of the causes of all deaths worldwide and in Italy 240,000 people die each year from heart attack and stroke. Being male, being older, and having a family history of heart disease are all considered “unalterable” risk factors but you can reduce your chances of getting sick by leading a healthy lifestyle. Fundamentally, in the “primary” prevention of cardiovascular disease, the “controllable” risk factors are related to lifestyle.
1. Smoking, both active and passive, is a major cardiovascular risk factor because it promotes the onset of atherosclerosis. Quitting smoking halves the risk of stroke;
2. High blood pressure exposes you to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease: hypertension strains the heart and can leave you vulnerable to the risk of atherosclerosis. It is considered “desirable” that blood pressure values do not exceed 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic;
3. Have your blood cholesterol levels checked: the value of total cholesterol should be less than 220 mg/dl; while LDL cholesterol should be kept below 160 mg/dl;
4. Diabetes is another important cardiovascular risk factor not to be underestimated: blood sugar levels in the blood need to remain below 110 mg/dl;
5. Following a healthy and balanced diet is important in reducing cardiovascular risk: try to eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes and other produce that provide a good source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and limit your intake of animal fats and of sugars contained in sweets and alcoholic beverages;
6. Watch your weight. Being overweight increases blood pressure which, by overloading the heart, increases the risk of heart disease and of developing adult-type diabetes, which is another cardiovascular risk factor;
7. Do not neglect physical activity: a sedentary lifestyle promotes the onset of cardiovascular disease. Walking and doing regular aerobic sports helps reduce the risk of becoming ill;
8. Avoid stress: the way we react to stressful situations constitutes another risk factor not to be overlooked because it causes increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels.