How to live longer: The 5 key ways to lower your chances of having a heart attack

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Having a heart attack is a common worry for the older generations in the UK. Not only are they sudden and extremely deadly, but they can also lead to lifelong issues in survivors. Having a healthy diet and being more active are the most well-known ways to keep your health in check, but there are a number of other things you should keep a close eye on to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Stopping smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for having a heart attack – as well as countless other deadly medical issues such as cancer and heart disease.

Smoking makes the walls of your arteries sticky, making it much easier for fatty materials to cling to them, potentially causing a blockage.

Cigarettes also contain tar and produce carbon monoxide, which damages your lungs significantly and increases your risk of heart and lung diseases.

Monitoring your blood pressure

Having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, significantly increases your chances of having a heart attack, and is a serious warning sign for a heart attack – some 50 percent of heart attacks in the UK are associated with high blood pressure, according to the British Heart Foundation.

It means your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood around your body, as arteries lose their stretchiness and become stiff and narrow, making it much easier for fatty materials to clog them up.

There isn’t always an explanation for the cause of high blood pressure, but most people develop high blood pressure because of their diet, lifestyle or a medical condition, and sometimes high blood pressure runs in families and can also worsen as you get older.

Keep cholesterol in check

Cholesterol is used to build cells and hormones in the body, and high cholesterol levels can lead to clogged arteries, one of the main causes of a heart attack.

High cholesterol can be inherited, but it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, which make it preventable and treatable.

Lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medicines can be used to keep your cholesterol levels down.

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Keep triglycerides down

Triglycerides are often mistaken for being the same as cholesterol – and while the two are linked, they are different.

When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides.

The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells to be used later, released for energy between meals.

High triglycerides can contribute to the hardening of arteries and the thickening of artery walls, which can increase your risk of a heart attack or a stroke and developing heart disease.

Know your family history

Some people are unfortunately more susceptible to having a heart attack, and a major warning sign can be found in your family history.

According to the British Heart Foundation, you have a ‘strong family history’ if your father or brother was under the age of 55 when they had a heart attack, or if your mother or sister suffered a heart attack under the age of 65.

You should inform your GP if you have a strong family history of heart attacks.

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