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How to wreck your heart

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

When it comes to your heart’s health, there are some things you can’t control - like getting older, or having a parent with heart disease. But there are many more things you can do to reduce the chances of sabotaging your ticker.

An ounce of prevention really can be worth a pound of cure in this instance, experts say.

To help your heart keep on track, here are 10 things not to do.

1. Keep smoking.

A major cause of heart disease, smoking raises blood pressure, causes blood clots and makes it harder to exercise. Heart and circulatory diseases are the leading causes of death for men and women in the UK.

Even though it may be one of the most difficult habits to quit, the rewards of stopping smoking are perhaps the greatest and most immediate.

When you throw away the cigarettes, your heart risk goes down within just a few days of quitting. Within a year, your risk is cut by half. After 10 years of living smoke-free, it’s as if you never smoked at all.

2. Ignore that chest pain.

When your heart literally aches and you don’t know why, it’s time to get it checked.

If you have chest pains while exercising, that’s a red flag. If it happens after a heavy meal, it’s more likely to be your stomach causing trouble, but should still be checked out.

If you feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest and you’re breaking out in a sweat, that’s an urgent matter; call 999.

3. Just accept that it’s in your genes.

Having a family history of heart disease is a strong risk factor for predicting your own chances of heart trouble.

But heart disease isn’t just what you inherit. It’s also what you do about it. You can still beat the odds and dramatically lower your risks by doing other heart-friendly things.

These include lowering your LDL 'bad' cholesterol if a doctor says your levels are high.

Bottom line: There’s no need to let your family history determine your destiny.

4. Skip your check-up.

When you’re not checked out regularly by a doctor, you might not realise if you have some of the silent heart risk factors that are harder to detect.

Some of the most common, symptom-free cardiovascular issues are also some of the most treatable, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

5. Be a couch potato.

Being sedentary increases heart risks. Physical activity helps us live longer.

Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, encourages weight loss, benefits blood vessel function, and cuts stress, among other things.

Even if you haven’t been active for the last 20 years, it’s never too late to make an impact with exercise. Just be sure to seek medical advice before you start a new fitness regime. Tell your doctor exactly what you plan to do, or ask his or her advice, if you're looking for suggestions.

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