Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Strategies for preventing heart diseases

MayoClinic.com: You can prevent heart disease by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are five strategies to help you protect your heart.

Heart diesease may be the leading cause of death for both men and women, but that doesn't mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, age and race — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.
Take steps to avoid heart disease — don't smoke, get regular exercise and eat healthy foods. Avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are five heart disease prevention tips to get you started.

Don't smoke or use tobacco products

"If you smoke, quit," advises Sharonne Hayes, M.D., a cardiologist and director of the Women's Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "That's the most powerful, preventable risk factor for heart disease."

When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals. Many of these can damage your heart and blood vessels, making them more vulnerable to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

In addition, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by constricting blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. Even so-called "social smoking" — only smoking while at a bar or restaurant with friends — is dangerous and increases the risk of heart disease.

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