The 29th of September marks the date of World Heart Day. This is an important campaign which aims to educate people worldwide about the risks of cardiovascular disease, and how to take care of their heart so it can serve them for a long, long time. Today, Pacific Prime Thailand will remind you why looking after your heart is crucial for your health, how to avoid heart-related diseases, and what types of health check-ups should be performed regularly to monitor your heart’s health.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of different heart and blood vessel diseases. These include:
- Coronary heart disease (also called ischemic heart disease)
- Heart attack
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Chronic heart failure
- Heart arrhythmia
Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with two cardiovascular diseases leading the way: ischemic heart disease and stroke. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is among the top 3 causes of death worldwide, and even if it’s not strictly a cardiovascular disease, it is often a risk factor for chronic heart failure. An estimated 17.3 million people die of cardiovascular diseases every year.
We’ll now focus on the lifestyle risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, and omit further dwelling on factors that you can’t do much about, such as genetics. Even if you have a risk factor, you will not necessarily develop cardiovascular disease, but remember: the more risk factors you have, the higher the chance of developing a CVD.
So what are the three main lifestyle choices you make every day that can put you at risk?
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy diet
- Tobacco use
Yes, an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle both lead to obesity, and increase your chances of developing high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol. Furthermore, smoking tobacco has been linked not only to heart disease, but also cancer and lung disease.
Also, your age and even gender have an impact on your heart’s health. The risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55 and men are at higher risk of developing CVDs than women are, at least prior to menopause. After that, the chance of developing CVDs for both men and women is nearly equal.
How to keep your heart healthy
The great news is that prevention is your best bet to fight cardiovascular disease. By working small lifestyle changes into your everyday routine, you can save yourself both physical and financial pain!
Eat a healthy diet that is low in fat and salt, and rich in vegetable and starches. Avoid excess sugar consumption, which also includes sugary drinks, and swap sweet, sugary treats for fresh fruit as a healthy alternative. Limit your alcohol consumption to the recommended amount of 14 units a week (that’s either 6 glasses of 13% wine or 6 pints of 4% beer).
Sure, regular exercise will help to reduce weight, but what’s most important for your heart’s health is that exercise boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, and decreases unhealthy triglycerides that are responsible for many cardiovascular diseases.
Aim to moderately exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week, or engage in about 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week. Doing housework, or even walking on the beach with your dog also counts, so please don’t make any excuses!
Say “no” to tobacco
If you are still smoking, quit now, as smoking tobacco is the single most dangerous habit for your heart. Within two years of stopping, the risk of coronary heart disease is substantially reduced, and after 15 years of quitting your lungs return to the state of a non-smoker’s.
Those who do not smoke should pay attention to their surroundings, and choose places where they won’t be exposed to passive smoking, which is almost as harmful as smoking itself.
In the doctor’s office
Regular health check-ups are a must for everyone; not only those who are at risk of developing CVDs or already suffer from them. Discuss with your physician and ask them to check your:
- Blood glucose levels
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- BMI (Body Mass Index)
Did you know that high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease? It’s called the ‘silent killer’ because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realize they have it at all.
Your glucose levels can indicate if you have diabetes, and if you do, this chronic disease puts you at higher risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke.
Final advice: Obtain expat health insurance in advance
If you haven’t already, we suggest you look for expat health insurance now that you are healthy. Most insurance companies will exclude cover for pre-existing conditions, cardiovascular diseases included. A pre-existing condition is any health problem or concern that was diagnosed or treated prior to buying a health insurance plan.
Why is this important? Once any pre-existing condition is in your medical records, you likely will not be able to obtain cover for any doctor’s visit, operation or treatment related to or as a result of the pre-existing condition. Some insurance companies may accept customers with pre-existing conditions provided the policyholder pays substantially higher premiums or high deductible amounts.
We at Pacific Prime Thailand hope that you will incorporate our tips into your daily routine, and pay particular attention to your heart’s health. If you’re looking for a new health insurance plan in Thailand, we’re here to help you secure the best coverage for your needs (even if you have any pre-existing conditions).
Contact us for a chat and free plan comparison and price quotation!