Men and heart care: Let it beat

What men can do to minimise their risk of heart disease

man drinking juiceAccording to a University of Leicester study in England, genetic make-up, lifestyle choices and male sex hormones make men more susceptible to cardiovascular conditions than women.

The difference becomes narrow after women reach menopause. After the age of 65, the risk of heart disease is about the same in both the sexes when other risk factors are similar.

Many studies point to emotional health, as well as traditional factors such as stress, anger and overwork, as major triggers of heart attacks in men. A Harvard School study found that men with the highest anger scores on personality tests are three times more likely to develop heart disease.

Male pattern baldness and a protruding stomach, also indicate a higher risk of heart disease. High levels of triglycerides [blood fats], a high-fat diet and an over-worked liver also double a man’s heart attack risk.

Men are at higher risk of high blood pressure, which may lead to clogged arteries and restricted blood flow to organs and tissues, leading to heart attacks, strokes and even gangrene.

Signs of heart attack

Do not ignore any of these symptoms as the first hour of heart attack is critical; it can save your life.

  • Pressure or pain in the centre of the chest lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain and numbness spreading to the face, neck or arms, and usually on one side
  • Severe headache with light-headedness
  • Nausea and skin paleness
  • Shortness of breath.

What to do

To prevent heart disease, men should:

Stop smoking

Quitting today can help you live longer and cut your risk of heart disease within a year. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 health-threatening compounds, of which 200 are known to be poisons.

Lose weight

If you are overweight, losing 11 – 22kg can make a difference as the excess weight puts additional burden on the heart and other organs.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise [at least three times a week] helps lower bad cholesterol and also keeps diabetes in control, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. This will keep your blood pressure in control and in turn will also help shed excess weight.

A study published in the journal, Heart has revealed that those who don’t exercise regularly and work for more than 45 hours a week are twice more likely to die from heart disease than unfit men who work shorter periods.

Eat right

What you eat every day impacts your cholesterol levels. Reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. These include animal products, dairy products, fast food, fried foods, pre-packaged foods and processed foods.

These increase your levels of LDL cholesterol. Instead, consume more fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These lower your LDL cholesterol while raising levels of HDL cholesterol.

Avoid alcohol

Excessive drinking can cause a variety of health problems like liver damage, hypertension, and high cholesterol to name a few. It is thus recommended to completely avoid or minimise the consumption of alcohol.

Donate blood

Men have twice as much iron in their bodies as women. Iron acts as a catalyst in cholesterol oxidation and is linked to hardening and scarring of the arteries. Studies show that by reducing their excess iron men can cut their risk for heart attack or stroke by 1/3rd. A good way to do that is to regularly donate blood.

Minimise stress

Learn to control stress rather than letting it control you. Try listening to music, gardening or making home repairs. If you like, you can also opt for deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation. Spend time with your family and friends; having strong and intimate bonds improves emotional wellbeing.

We can no longer ignore the importance of leading a healthy and happy life. So ‘clean up’ your lifestyle habits as it leads to the wellbeing of your body-mind-spirit.

Dr Atul Mathur is the director of Interventional Cardiology at Escorts Hospital, New Delhi.


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