In September we celebrate World Heart Day! Are you concerned that your lifestyle is not conducive to maintaining a healthy heart? We have developed a quick questionnaire and some basic guidelines to raise awareness of healthy lifestyle habits that play a protective role in heart health.
If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions you may be at a greater risk for heart disease. Please read the guidelines below for some basic information on keeping your heart healthy.
If you are unfamiliar with the terminology used in these guidelines please read the explanation below to provide clarity
Heart Healthy Guidelines
- In order to understand the effect that one’s lifestyle can have on the heart it is essential to grasp its role in the human body.
- The heart is basically a muscular pump that pumps blood (containing oxygen and nutrients) to various parts of the body through blood vessels (‘pipes’).
- If the oxygen or nutrients do not reach certain parts of the body that part of the body is not able to work properly and actually starts to die.
- The reason that this can happen is that the blood vessels can become blocked, thereby preventing the blood from reaching certain parts of the body and supplying them with the oxygen and nutrients they need. If the blood vessels to the heart become blocked it can result in a heart attack, whereas if those to the brain are blocked a stroke can occur.
- Blockages can occur in blood due to elevated LDL cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein a.k.a. ‘bad’ cholesterol) which causes fatty layers to line the inside of the blood vessels and eventually cause blockages.
- The body’s protective mechanism against this is HDL cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein a.k.a. ‘good’ or ‘happy’ cholesterol), which basically cleans out these fatty layers and prevents blockages from forming.
- Blockages can also occur due to damage to blood vessels from environmental factors like smoking
- Increased levels of triglycerides in the blood as well as an increased blood pressure means that the heart has to work harder which over a long period of time means that it can get worn out and can lead to heart failure.
- Hopefully this quick explanation will aid in understanding why lifestyle changes are so important
Complied by: Cecile Niebuhr RD(SA)