Seven steps to a healthy heart
Cardiovascular disease is still the most common cause of death in Germany. More than 200,000 people die from heart disease each year, including almost 50,000 from acute heart attacks. On World Heart Day, experts recommend a gradual change in lifestyle for a healthy heart – and for emotional well-being.
Cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of death in Germany. A healthier lifestyle could prevent many illnesses and deaths. Experts explain what to look for here. (Image: Blue Planet Studio / stock.adobe.com)
Cardiovascular disease is still the most common cause of death in Germany. These illnesses are usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle with little exercise and poor diet. The professionals have summarized a few recommendations that will help lower your risk of heart disease.
Many deaths could be avoided
Heart attack, heart failure, stroke: heart and circulatory diseases cause many hospitalizations and deaths each year. As the German Heart Foundation reports in a current press release, nearly 660,000 people are hospitalized in Germany simply because of coronary heart disease (CHD), the underlying disease of myocardial infarction. More than 122,000 people die from it, including nearly 49,000 deaths from heart attacks.
Many illnesses and deaths could be prevented. According to experts, half of the cases of CHD can be attributed to the current lifestyle: smoking, lack of exercise, obesity, harmful permanent stress and poor diet, which in turn lead to high-risk diseases such as hypertension. blood pressure, diabetes and lipid metabolism disorders (high cholesterol).
Early prevention through a healthy lifestyle
With World Heart Day on September 29, the German Heart Foundation calls on German citizens to take precautionary measures at an early stage in the form of a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid heart and vascular disease at high risk. Seven steps can help, as a lifestyle change is not always easy in the hustle and bustle of daily work and family life.
“A healthy lifestyle does a lot for the cardiovascular system, but you have to proceed gradually and not overdo it at once,” recommends the cardiologist and rehabilitation specialist Prof. med. Bernhard Schwaab of the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Heart Foundation and Chief Physician of the Curschmann Clinic on Timmendorfer Strand.
But how can you exercise more despite your weakness? How do you eat healthier? And what else should be considered? The following Heart Foundation checklist is designed to help motivated people lead healthy lives:
Be active and move more Stop smoking Eat healthier and avoid sugar Pay attention to weight Pay attention to blood pressure Pay attention to cholesterol levels Pay attention to sufficient relaxation on a daily basis
Professor Schwaab advises starting with exercise. “With movement, you quickly feel better and you are more productive. With more physical activity, heart patients often cope better with cardiac medical treatment. “
Other measures can then be taken. Exercise also improves mood and helps overcome cravings. Ultimately, however, each patient must determine their own order (priorities). This is important so that lifestyle changes can be persistent.
Seven tips for a healthy heart
According to the Heart Foundation, those who exercise regularly are effective in preventing heart and vascular disease, but also diabetes and cancers such as colon or breast cancer. A half-hour endurance exercise five days a week is ideal. For example, jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, ergometer training or even dancing with moderate endurance exercise.
It is also better to make everyday life as active as possible: riding a bicycle instead of an electric car or scooter, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, standing at the desk instead of sitting. on the phone and work. “Heart patients should discuss their resilience with their doctor,” Schwaab recommends. This also applies to people without illness after a long break without physical activity.
Movement not only protects against arteriosclerosis (“vascular calcification” or “arterial calcification”), but has a positive effect on other body and organ functions such as cell renewal, stimulation of brain activity , metabolic processes in the liver and other organs.
To quit smoking or not to start is worth it! Nicotine is a potent poison for the blood vessels, and tobacco use is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and hardening of the arteries.
According to reports, 120,000 premature and preventable deaths per year can be attributed to smoking in this country: caused by heart attacks and strokes, malignant tumors and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Quitting smoking is the single most effective measure after a heart attack and reduces the risk of another heart attack by well over 50%! Continued smoking of e-cigarettes can no longer be classified as harmless to health.
Experts promote traditional Mediterranean cuisine. “The Mediterranean diet is based on fruits and vegetables, salad, legumes, little meat, but rather fish, on olive and rapeseed oil and on herbs instead of salt”, explains Professor Schwaab. .
Salt binds water in the body, which can promote high blood pressure (hypertension). In particular, the daily consumption of sufficient vegetables and fiber can help prevent obesity due to the relatively low energy content, which in turn promotes high blood pressure. In addition, the dishes of Mediterranean cuisine taste delicious and are by no means bland.
Too much sugar in foods and drinks increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Therefore, the motto is to avoid sugar in drinks. Many foods like yogurt, salad dressings, or ketchup often contain a lot of sugar. A glance at the ingredient list will help identify hidden sugars.
Pay attention to the weight
In addition to exercise, Mediterranean cuisine promotes gradual weight loss for a healthy, normal weight. It is also worth limiting your alcohol intake. Alcohol is high in calories and can indirectly lead to high blood pressure through weight gain.
Obesity is a common trigger for high blood pressure. The goal should be a weight with a body mass index (BMI) between 22 and 25 (BMI is calculated from: body weight in kg divided by body length in m². Example: 80 kg: 1, 80 (m) ² = BMI 24, 7). When it comes to waist size, men should aim for less than 102cm and women less than 88cm.
Belly fat produces hormones and inflammatory messengers that affect blood pressure, among other things. “Every kilogram and centimeter less has a positive effect on high blood pressure and sugar,” says Professor Schwaab, also president of the German Society for the Prevention and Rehabilitation of Cardiovascular Diseases (DGPR).
Monitor your blood pressure
High blood pressure is treacherous because you don’t feel it at first (“silent killer”). Undetected and untreated, hypertension dramatically increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage. It is therefore essential to measure your blood pressure regularly.
Doctors speak of high blood pressure when various measurements of the upper arm in the doctor’s office on different days show values of 140 to 90 mmHg or more. For home self-measurements, an upper limit of 135 to 85 mmHg applies.
The blood pressure values in practice can be a little higher, because the patients are usually a little excited during the measurement (“high pressure white coat”). Values can be entered into a blood pressure passport to document progress.
Keep an eye on cholesterol levels
High blood cholesterol levels are a significant risk factor for heart attacks and strokes as well as circulatory disorders in the legs (intermittent claudication, “PAOD” for short). High levels of LDL cholesterol cause vascular changes in the arteries of the heart (arteriosclerosis), in the cerebral arteries and also in the arteries of the legs with the formation of deposits in these vessels (plaques).
“Studies have clearly shown this for decades,” says Schwaab. In addition, scientific studies have shown that reducing high cholesterol levels with drugs has a beneficial effect on the course of the disease.
A check of the cholesterol level during the regular check-up at the family doctor at home once a year helps prevent heart attacks.
Pay attention to sufficient relaxation in everyday life
Stress at work, in family, in relationships and also in leisure time: it is not stress alone that makes you sick, but a lack of relaxation. During stress, stress hormones are released, blood sugar levels rise, insulin release increases, the heart beats faster, and blood pressure rises.
If the stress persists, these processes do not stop and the body is under constant pressure. It harms the whole body. The result can be inflammatory reactions in the body, at worst, including diabetes, stroke, arteriosclerosis, and heart attack or cardiac arrhythmias.
Therefore, always pay attention to a balance between stress and relaxation. Create islands of calm that fill you with life, that is, activities that allow you to forget about stress, such as making music, reading, painting, dancing, cooking with friends, playing with the children or go to concerts and sporting events together. Relaxation techniques are also very useful: progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, yoga, qigong or tai chi.
Overcome your own weaker self
In most cases, the old familiar structures of his own life must be dismantled to change his lifestyle. “It’s generally difficult,” explains Schwaab and advises: “It is often useful to set up fixed anchor points in your living environment: regular running, walker or cardio group in the club, multiple cooking with the family or with friends At home and for smokers, exchange with former smokers from the support group. “(Ad)
Author and source information
This text conforms to the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
German Heart Foundation: Seven Steps for a Healthy Heart, (accessed 29.09.2020), German Heart Foundation
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.