In 2019 alone, 16,325 Malaysians died of a heart attack. That’s around 45 people a day! The disease has topped the list of the biggest killers in the country for the past 15 years. Things are still not looking good today. The scariest thing about heart disease is that it can happen to anyone at any age. Our risk of developing it could increase due to several factors in our lives. Fortunately, there are ways around it.
Understanding Your Risk
Before we delve deeper into what actions you can take to prevent heart attack, take this quiz to find out if you’re really at risk.
If your answers are mostly As
Based on your lifestyle and family history, your risk of getting heart disease is low. But remember that low risk doesn’t equal no risk!
Sure, you eat well, but do you have a balanced diet? Make sure to add fruits and whole grains to your diet. Also, choose low-fat milk as well as healthier sources of fat such as fish and olive oil. Keep your salt and sugar intake within reason. Eat healthy snacks like dried figs. It’s rich in antioxidants and known to prevent heart disease or high blood pressure.
You might think you don’t have high blood pressure, but you can never really know for certain without asking your doctor. Getting it checked is the only way to be sure. Speaking of being sure, you might want to ask your family members again if they have had heart problems before. Just in case!
Furthermore, be on the lookout for predictive blood test technology that can determine your risk of heart attack by detecting odd-shaped blood cells.
If your answers are mostly Bs
Your answers show that you’re at high risk from heart disease. There are some factors that you just can’t control, like your age. The risk of heart disease in women, for instance, increases after menopause due to changes in cholesterol, blood pressure and metabolism.
But don’t worry too much, because there are things you can control and improve to lower your risk! If you smoke – stop! If you drink too much, it’s time to limit yourself. We know it’s easier said than done, but you need to try as soon as possible. As the saying goes, getting started is already half the battle.
What you could do next is to manage what you eat and to exercise more. An imbalanced diet and being physically idle could lead to overweight or obesity. These conditions are the causes of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type-2 diabetes, all of which increases the risk of heart disease. Consult your doctor about eating healthily and losing weight.
Some medications could help reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and prevent blood clots. They contain diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, blood thinners, antiplatelet drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and fibrates. Consult a doctor if you need to take these blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs – they need to be consumed daily for the most effective results.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the treatment can vary as every person has a different body constitution, e.g., people with deficiency patterns would need to strengthen or nourish yin and promote blood circulation. It’s advisable to consult with a TCM physician before your conditions become worse.
Some general tips you can follow to improve your health:
- Avoid oily, deep-fried, and processed foods
- Limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day – or about 1 teaspoon of salt
- Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals
- Exercise without overexertion
- Sleep before 11 PM every day
Also, you could try consuming supplements that contain capsaicin, which releases proteins that support blood vessels and therefore decreases blood pressure. Capsaicin is what makes chillies taste spicy. Additionally, eating spicy food will trigger serotonin and endorphins that relieve stress, another risk factor for heart disease. Although it won’t cure depression instantly, adding some spiciness to your food would lift your mood and hopefully help you start your journey toward heart disease prevention with a smile.
This is an adaptation of articles, “Risk Factors of Heart Disease” and “Fighting Heart Disease – Part 1 & 2”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
- Free Malaysia Today. 2021. Lockdown stress linked to heart attacks? [Accessed 28 July 2021]
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- British Heart Foundation. Measuring Your Waist. [Accessed 28 July 2021]
- American Heart Association. 2016. Understand Your Risks to Prevent a Heart Attack. [Accessed 28 July 2021]
- Heart Foundation. Are you at risk of heart disease? [Accessed 28 July 2021]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease. [Accessed 28 July 2021]
- Insider. 2020. 4 simple stress relief tactics from around the world, from eating spicy food to forest bathing. [Accessed 28 July 2021]
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