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Protect Your Heart Since Young Age

Wong Shu Lee  


  July 09, 2022

Our heart is the most important organ in the human body as this organ pumps relentlessly since we were embryos and doesn’t stop beating even when we are asleep. In fact, our heart pumps about a million barrels of blood in an average lifespan. Therefore, the heart is like the engine of the human body. If anything goes wrong with the heart, all the other organs will also be affected.


The prevalence of heart disease in Malaysia is ever-increasing. What used to be a disease of the elderly is now seen much earlier. Nowadays, Malaysians in their 20s and 30s are suffering from heart attacks. Heart disease is still the number 1 killer in Malaysia. Almost 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. On average, about 140 persons for every 100,000 people will suffer from a heart attack during their lifetime.


The risk factor for heart disease can be divided into non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors. The non-modifiable risk factors are age, sex, and family history. The modifiable risk factors are namely diabetes, hypertension, smoking, hyperlipidemia, and obesity.


Making healthy and smart lifestyle choices in your 20s can improve your heart’s future substantially. Let’s consider bringing these habits into your daily regimen to maintain a healthy heart in your 20s.


Eat Healthily


Unhealthy eating plays a big role in developing high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, coronary disease, and Type II diabetes—all major risk factors for heart disease. At the same time, embracing a Mediterranean-style diet while staying mindful of portion sizes can also lower your risk of heart disease.


Fill your plate with fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Steer clear of saturated fats, excess salt, and sugary snacks when you can. Walnuts, fish, and other Omega-3-rich foods may slash your cholesterol levels and prevent inflammation and blood clots.


Be mindful of what’s on your plate. Making small lifestyle changes around food is shown to decrease your risk of heart disease at all ages. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food in your 20s is one of the first steps to improving your heart's well-being.


Stay Active


Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Adding cardio activities like running, rowing, cycling, and swimming to your workout plan will improve your cardiac health. Cardiovascular workouts keep your heart rate elevated, which improves blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. One Harvard study found people who run, swim laps, or do other cardio activities are 20 percent less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who don’t.


Make staying active a part of your 20s by fitting in activities however you can.  If possible, try requesting a standing desk at work. Fit in a walk or run after dinner. Try your hand at a new sport with a Portland city rec league. Strive for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two days of strength training a week. Remember, even adding small changes in movement counts.


Avoid Smoking


Smoking is a key risk factor contributing to heart disease. The facts are grim: smoking causes 1 in 3 deaths related to cardiovascular failure. Smoking tobacco can cause blood vessels to thicken and constrict, which increases plaque build-up inside them. Even nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke are 20 to 30 percent more vulnerable to having a stroke. Your risk of developing coronary heart disease reduces by half after a year of quitting. 


Know Your Family’s Health History


Your family history doesn’t explicitly mean you’ll suffer the same cardiac conditions as other family members, but it does increase your chances of heart disease and strokes. 


Find out if anyone in your family–parents, brothers, sisters, or grandparents–has suffered any cardiovascular problems. After learning your family’s health history, bring it to your doctor to discuss lifestyle choices or concerns you may have. 


Establishing a positive relationship with your doctor regarding your family’s health will allow them to help you plan your heart’s future accordingly.


Make a heart-to-heart plan with your physician


Even if you’re healthy and don’t know your family history, a primary care physician can help detect potential problems early on. Address any health concerns you have, manage medications as directed, and follow your physician’s recommendations when visiting a doctor. Learn to manage hypertension, and prioritize six to eight hours of sleep a night. 


You’ll also want to learn the symptoms of heart attacks and strokes. Call 999 or any private ambulance service if anyone around you is experiencing chest or upper body discomfort that lasts for more than several minutes, shortness of breath, or a range of other heart attack symptoms. Keep in mind that women sometimes have less obvious warning signs like severe fatigue and nausea.


In a perfect world, everyone would start seeing a doctor for an annual checkup by age 20, but the second-best time is now. Your heart will thank you for prioritizing healthy habits at an early age as you progress through your thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond. Treat eating right and exercising as an essential part of your day-to-day routine. 


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