Healthy, energetic, go-getters, out to conquer the world. These are words we associate with “youth.” If we’re to ask the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, and other reputable health agencies in the world, they might add a few choice entries that will surprise you:
Myocardial infarction. If you’re not familiar with this, here is the more popular term: heart attack.
People with heart diseases in the country are now getting younger — the PIA reported last February. The majority of our population believed that this is a matter that’s relevant only to people aged 50 or higher, but a large number of our (younger) countrymen have been proving everyone wrong.
According to the PIA report, heart disease was the 7th leading cause of death in the country five years ago. Today, it is the 5th. Furthermore, the average age group of heart attack victims has gone down to 30-40 years old.
The report is a warning to Filipino Millennials: we need to take better care of our health because heart disealeadse doesn’t discriminate. It’s not exclusive to older people. We Modern Filipinas also have to work especially harder because we have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the PIA and a report by the American Heart Association.
In this article, we discuss what causes heart attacks and what we can do to avoid them.
Cardiovascular Disease is Not an Age Issue
Young people today need to understand that age is not the basis of risk for heart diseases, but the changes that the respiratory system undergoes as time passes. To understand this better, let’s examine the nature of heart attacks — the most deadly symptom of heart disease.
A heart attack happens when there is a sudden blockage in the blood vessels, preventing oxygenated blood from flowing freely throughout the organ. If the blocked sections of the heart can’t get oxygen-rich blood right away, the affected muscle tissue will begin to die. This causes the heart to stop functioning correctly, and its purpose of pumping blood will be “arrested.”
What causes the blockages that lead to heart attacks? Blood clots, scars, diseases that cause abnormalities in the dilation of blood vessels, and plaque made of fat and calcium deposits are the common causes.
Except for patients with family histories of heart disease, these causes emerge not because of age but of habits that have bad effects on the cardiovascular system. Examples of these detrimental habits are:
- Eating plenty of fast food, and
- Living sedentary lifestyles.
Age, therefore, is not a precursor to cardiovascular disease. Even a person who doesn’t have a family history can become a candidate for a heart attack or any other disease if he or she enjoys vices that promote heart diseases.
Prevention Starts with Lifestyle Changes
Out of all the possible heart attack causes mentioned above, plaque formation is one that we can — and should— prevent.
Unfortunately for many of us who live in Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country, it’s a challenge to be healthy. We live in a world where the work culture is fast-paced, and everything else seems to take precedence over our health.
For instance, we are sleep deprived because we need to wake at dawn to beat the rush-hour commute. We work in exciting, yet high-stress environments (which, in turn, provoke us to indulge in the vices mentioned above). We spend our free time catching up on sleep instead of exercising or preparing healthy meals.
Here is a sad reality: unless you can afford a monthly gym membership or eat in salad bars every day, you’ll likely skip the exercise and make do with the more affordable fast-food meals. But this is a discussion for another day.
It takes dedication and hard work to keep our hearts healthy. There’s no magic pill that will make you immune to heart disease or reverse their development overnight. Effective prevention is rooted in a healthy lifestyle, and you’ll need to commit time and resources for this.
Stay Out of the Statistics: How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease prevention is closely associated with fitness and weight loss because they address health problems that could become precursors to cardiovascular issues:
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Fatty liver disease
Training to lose weight, therefore, is vital to keeping your heart healthy and functional.
Other preventive measures are rudimentary, but don’t underestimate the good that they can do for your heart and overall health:
- Do cardio exercises (e.g., walking, stretching) at least 30 minutes every day
- Monitor your blood sugar and cholesterol levels (get tested for cholesterol every five years)
- Reduce your intake of food high in saturated fat and cholesterol (e.g., fatty meats, poultry skin, tallow, dairy products)
- Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and legumes
- Stop smoking — even e-cigarettes
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Manage your stress levels
- Get enough sleep every night
Observe these guidelines, and you can reduce your risk for heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases.
Complacency can become your worst enemy when it comes to your health. Be proactive in protecting your heart. It is the one area in your life where you can be sure that every effort is worth it.