According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 13% of all deaths in 2012 were due to coronary artery disease, which fatally culminates with a heart attack. In other words, for every 10 deaths, fewer than nine are caused by accidents, homicide, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, and cancer all put together. The rest are all caused by heart attacks.
But here’s good news: it has already been scientifically established that most heart attacks can be prevented by eating healthy, increasing physical activity, losing excess weight, completely avoiding smoking, and keeping alcohol consumption at a moderate level. The bad news is that none of these lifestyle changes are easy to do. We need a strong motivator.
What if we knew what our chances are of getting a heart attack in the next 10 years if we do not change our current lifestyle—would that help us change our ways?
Risk in real-life terms
When we hear that we have a 30% risk of getting a heart attack, it doesn’t sound quite so alarming, does it? To many of us, a 30% risk of getting a heart attack is really a 70% risk of not getting a heart attack. Therefore, we have no compelling reason to make the lifestyle changes necessary to lower our risks.
But what if we put it this way: When you have a 1% risk, it’s like being put in a group of 100 people from which one person—just one—will be selected to have a heart attack. How does that feel? Do you still feel comfortable with those odds? Now let’s talk about a 30% risk. You’re put in a group of only 100 people where 30 people will have a heart attack. Now would you not bend over backwards to be in the 1% risk group instead?
Preventing or delaying heart attacks
As mentioned before, heart attacks risks can be significantly reduced by lifestyle changes. Here are a few things you can do:
Replace your regular fish with fatty fish (e.g., trout, tuna, and salmon); your regular milk with fat-free milk; your red meat with white meat; and your white rice and bread with brown rice and bread.
Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils), oatmeal, and corn tortillas.
Reduce the salt and sugar in your diet.
Limit yourself to one glass of alcoholic drink per day.
Meditate and exercise every day.
Walk more (at least 30 minutes, cumulative, per day) and walk faster.
Participate more in enjoyable, stress-relieving activities with your friends and family.
These lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure, increase HDL, reduce overall cholesterol levels, and slow down or reverse the build-up of plaque in blood vessels. By living more healthily, you and your loved ones don’t have to be one of the 30 people out of a hundred who will have a heart attack in the coming decade. So let’s all start now in doing something to reduce our risk of getting a heart attack in the next 10 years of our life.