Heart Campaign: 6 Tips to a Healthy Heart

Over one million Norwegians use medications for cardiovascular diseases. Since many of us also are indirectly affected through relatives with heart or circulatory diseases or a brain dysfunction, this is a problem affecting a large proportion of the Norwegian population.

Atherosclerosis – meaning hardening of the arteries – is an aging process that occurs in everyone, but that starts earlier and becomes more prominent in those who smoke, are physically inactive and overweight.

Since it is the main cause of angina, heart attack and stroke, we should all do what we can to prevent it.

By following the simple steps below, the risk of cardiovascular diseases is reduced.

  • Check your 1) cholesterol, 2) blood pressure and 3) blood sugar
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a little healthier
  • Stay physically active

1.    Cholesterol

The scientific basis for the connection between the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and cardiovascular diseases is indisputable.

Therefore all adults should know their cholesterol levels. These can be found by taking a blood test. High LDL cholesterol often occurs as a consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle, but a few people have a hereditary condition that gives high cholesterol already at a young age, which make them predisposed to cardiovascular diseases.


2.    Blood Pressure

High blood pressure overtime increases the risk of brain stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. In addition, it may affect your eyesight and lead to eye diseases.

An elevated blood pressure can easily be detected by a medical examination or a 24 hour blood pressure recording at home.

Overall, forty percent of the adult population in the world has a high blood pressure. A single session of physical activity lowers this and if you are active three to five days a week, it will give you a lasting effect. In combination with blood pressure medication, you can reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke by 60 to 80 percent.


3.    Blood Sugar

Since diabetes doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, it is important that it is detected early to prevent future heart diseases.

The measurement of long-term blood sugar levels can easily reveal type 2 diabetes or precursors to the disease.

Diabetes type 2 usually develops slowly and gives few symptoms in itself. Overweight and inactive people have an increased risk of the disease and should check their blood sugar levels.


4.    Smoking

Smoking causes between 700 and 800 heart-related deaths in Norway every year. Smoking is also the main cause for lung cancer and increases the likelihood of a variety of other types of cancer.

You can reduce the chances of cancer by decreasing the number of cigarettes, but it seems that you must stop completely to prevent heart attacks.

The positive effects on your heart, brain and lungs of quitting smoking are seen already after a few weeks and the risk of diseases and early death is significantly reduced after a few months.


5.    Nutrition

Most people know what a healthy diet consists of and should start eating a little bit healthier. Dietary changes should preferably be done gradually and once you have made a change, you must be consistent.

Start by eating fish at least once a week, preferably twice, and replace butter with rapeseed, olive oil or soft margarine. Be aware of high salt content in fast food and avoid the use of extra salt when you cook.

Choose fruit and vegetables as a snack between meals and if you are thirsty, drink water.


6.    Activity

Physical activity is of great importance to your health, both physically and mentally. Your physical fitness affects your quality of life and your lifespan.

Any activity is better than no activity. Start by walking ten minutes every day, it will benefit both your body and mind.

The Norwegian health authorities recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. A few minutes of activity now and then throughout the day count as well. Combining this with a 30 minute workout three times a week gives a health benefit over time.

Choose an activity that you enjoy and team up with a friend. An exercise buddy can be both motivating and committing.


Reference: «Ditt Fantastiske Hjerte” by Dr Jørgen Gravning