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Cardio-vascular Health

Ten Lifestyle Rules, Heart Attack

10 Ways To Decrease The Risk of Heart Attack

By Dr. W. Gifford Jones

Here's the good news. Death from heart attack has decreased 30 per cent during the last 20 years. The bad news? It's still the number one killer. But it can be reduced further by following 10 lifestyle rules.

One © Quit smoking

Of the 600,000 deaths every year from myocardial infarction 100,000 to 200,000 are related to smoking. Addiction to nicotine more than doubles your chance of heart attack and also adds to the problems of diabetes and hypertension. Use the nicotine patches if you can't stop "cold turkey".

Two © Lose Weight

A recent study showed that about 40 per cent of heart attacks were attributed to being overweight. Apple©shaped or pot©bellied people, those who put weight on around the waist, are particularly prone to heart attack. Obesity also sets the stage for diabetes, hypertension, strokes and many other medical conditions.

Three © Avoid diabetes

Prevent obesity and you avert 90 per cent of diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in men two to three times and in women three to seven.

Four © Exercise any way you wish.

30 studies during the last 40 years show that exercise protects against heart attack. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that sedentary individuals who start to exercise decrease the risk of CHD by 35 to 55 per cent. Exercise helps to keep the blood from clotting, eases stress, reduces blood pressure, boosts HDL the good cholesterol and helps the body use insulin more effectively,. But beware of strenuous activity if you're not in shape. Studies in the U.S. and Germany show that for those who lead a sedentary life a sudden burst of activity can increase the risk of heart attack 100©fold. So let others push the lawn mower or shovel the snow until you get in better physical condition.

Five © Avoid hypertension

Increased blood pressure triggers heart attack and strokes. For every one point drop in blood pressure there's about a 3 per cent decrease in the risk of coronary attack. You can fight the development of hypertension by decreasing the intake of salt, alcohol and calories.

Six © Take natural vitamin E.

The Harvard Study and investigations in seven other countries show that the higher the level of vitamin E in the blood, the lower the death rate from heart disease. Research indicates that natural vitamin E is more potent than synthetic E, once again showing it's hard to improve on nature. To ensure you're purchasing "natural E" look for the "d" in front of alpha tocopherol. Synthetic E is labelled "dl".

Seven © Take estrogens at the start of the menopause.

"The Harvard nurses" study shows that women who do not use either the "Estraderm" patch or take the pill have twice the risk of heart attack. It's believed that estrogen increases the good HDL cholesterol and has a beneficial effect on blood vessels. Long term treatment with estrogen also protects against osteoporosis (brittle bones), senile vaginitis and fights depression.

Eight © Consider the benefits of moderate drinking.

It's not my intention to make alcoholics of my readers, but study after study shows that moderate drinkers have fewer heart attacks and also live longer. There's a tendency for some physicians and others to bury this scientific fact under the rug because of personal morality. This is unfortunate because elderly people in particular benefit from moderate drinking. As Sir William Osler, the renowned physician remarked, "Alcohol is milk for the elderly". A report in the New England Journal of Medicine hits the nail on the head. It stresses that, "The difference between drinking moderately and excessively is the difference between preventing and causing disease". But if you can't drink moderately, don't drink.

Nine © Think about aspirin.

Half an aspirin (160 milligrams) a day or every few days reduces the risk of heart attack by about one©third. Aspirin decreases the ability of the blood platelets to clot. It's particularly advisable to consider aspirin if you already have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. But don't self©treat as aspirin can cause gastric bleeding in some patients. Check with your doctor.

Ten © Cholesterol reduction.

I've got to include this point because some experts believe cholesterol reduction saves lives. But I believe they conceal from the public the fact that dietary measures to reduce blood cholesterol do not reduce overall mortality. A well©balanced diet that includes dairy products is still the best approach. Farmers, hens and cows do not cause heart attacks. It's genetics, obesity, smoking, diabetes, hypertension and lack of exercise that are responsible.


It 's shocking that the Center for Disease Control reports that only 18 per cent of adults are free of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease. We've a long way to go in preventing premature cardiovascular disease.

W. Gifford-Jones M.D Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker's website is:
Dr. Walker can be reached at

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