Stroke and heart attack – how to reduce your risk

Stroke and heart attack: How to lower your risk

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death. Prevent strokes and heart attacks in good time.

At rest, the heart pumps almost five liters of blood through the body every minute. But if the coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart muscle, are constricted, the heart loses performance. In the worst case, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs: a vessel is suddenly completely blocked and the heart muscle's function is impaired.

"Due to the lack of oxygen, heart muscle tie dies off. In the case of a heart attack, there is an acute danger to life," says Dr. Reinhold Lunow, medical director of the Bornheim Practice Clinic between Cologne and Bonn. The internist and expert in preventive care and diagnostics advises: "With the right preventive care, you can significantly reduce your personal risk of heart attack and stroke."

The most frequent cause of a heart attack or stroke is arteriosclerosis, the calcification of the blood vessels.

Aging alone causes deposits to form on the walls of blood vessels (plaques), which can cause a blood clot. Risk factors such as high blood prere (hypertension), diabetes, obesity, lipid metabolism disorders with elevated cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia), smoking, stress and lack of exercise promote this gradual disease, which often develops into coronary heart disease (CHD).

In the case of stroke (sog. apoplectic insult, apoplexy) also lead to a narrowing or. an occlusion in a cerebral vessel due to thrombosis or embolism. Bleeding in the brain is rarer. Often triggered by cardiac arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation): clots can form in the area of the left atrium as a result of the locally slowed blood flow, which can travel with the bloodstream to the brain and clog a smaller vessel there (cerebral infarction). In a stroke, the area of the organ behind it is also cut off from the oxygen supply. As with a heart attack, a stroke poses an acute risk to life.

Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack are still cause of death no. 1 in Germany, followed by stroke.

"Stroke is also one of the most significant factors in long-term disability. Around 200.000 people suffer a stroke in Germany every year," says Dr. Lunow. Effective prevention can significantly reduce everyone's risk of stroke and heart attack.

Here's what you can do to protect your heart and brain:

Do not smoke!
Smoking damages practically the whole organism by promoting arteriosclerosis. Those who quit smoking will feel positive changes after a short period of time.

Drink alcohol only in moderation!
A small amount of alcohol (1 glass of wine or beer per day) can have a positive effect. However, drinking alcohol regularly and too much increases blood prere.

Watch your weight!
Obesity leads to increased blood prere, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels – the main risk factors for stroke and heart attack.

Eat healthy! Prefer low-fat foods. Reach for healthy fats (z.B.B. Olive and canola oil) back. Choose simply saturated or. Polyunsaturated essential fats. Avoid hydrogenated trans fatty acids (v. a. in convenience foods, "junk food"). Fish is recommended (z. B. Salmon, trout), which is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables!
Numerous nutrients in it, such as potassium, folic acid, and antioxidants, protect against stroke and heart attack.

Avoid salt!
Prevent high blood prere by reducing salt intake.

Drink plenty of!
Prefer water to all high-sugar sodas and fruit juices.

Go for preventive care.
Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for heart attack and stroke and how to manage them.

Prevent heart attacks through regular exercise and sport

Occasional exercise is not enough. You can only reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack if you exercise or play sports regularly. If one exerts oneself physically, the heart beats more frequently and pumps more blood per minute through the body to supply it with sufficient oxygen. In people who exercise regularly, the cardiovascular system adapts to the load: The heart enlarges, stroke volume increases.

Anyone who does not exercise regularly, is older than 45 or suffers from a chronic illness should seek medical advice as part of a health check-up before taking up sport for the first time: for choosing the right type of sport and the appropriate individual load.

Healthy and safe exercise protects against heart attack and stroke

Start gently!
Choose a level of exercise you are comfortable with and increase it each time you exercise. Example: Walk at a brisk pace for five to ten minutes at the beginning without a break and increase your workload by five minutes at a time as long as you can do so without too much effort.

Plan regular exercise.
It is best to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes, or better yet, up to 60 minutes.

Train systematically!
Combine different types of exercise, such as stretching, endurance training and strength training. Always start your workout with warm-up exercises. Let it fade out gradually (cool-down phase).

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