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Keys to a healthy heart free of risks

by Mark Nolan
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Quironsalud Torrevieja

The specialists of the Cardiology Unit at Quirónsalud Torrevieja answer the most frequently asked questions about cardiovascular diseases.


What is cardiovascular pathology?



Cardiovascular disease refers to the pathological process that affects the entire arterial system, not only the coronary arteries, but also the brain, legs and the rest of the body.


Therefore, when we talk about cardiovascular disease we refer to stroke, transient ischaemic attack, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, intermittent claudication and arterial ischaemia as manifestations of cardiovascular disease, among others.

The pathological process involved is usually atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of fats, cholesterol and other substances within the wall of the arteries, causing progressive narrowing and even complete obstruction, blocking the flow of blood that should reach a part of the body.



Prevention of cardiovascular diseases


In addition to exhaustively treating the classic risk factors such as arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia (hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridaemia) and tobacco consumption, there are a series of measures that help prevent the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease. The cardiology experts at Quirónsalud have drawn up the following list:


– Nutrition: is the integrating pillar for both prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.


– Exercise: most cardiovascular risk factors are improved by a combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training and stretching.


– Mind-heart interactions: A clear association between emotional state and heart health has been observed. Stress can induce ischaemia by causing both epicardial and microvascular vasoconstriction.


How to prevent heart disease


At Quirónsalud, heart health experts and cardiologists recommend the benefits of a comprehensive lifestyle intervention programme, including: nutritional changes through a low-fat, vegetable-based diet, frequent physical exercise and stress management, all of which have shown the disappearance of angina pectoris in 74% of patients included in the study by Frattaroli et al.


In addition, as shown in the 2011 study by Sattelmair et al in the scientific journal Circulation, walking 30 minutes 5 days a week reduces the risk of ischaemic heart disease (angina pectoris or myocardial infarction) by 14%.


Risk factors for heart disease


There are certain risk factors for heart disease that are not within our control, such as genetic inheritance, age, gender and environmental pollution. However, by knowing these factors in each person’s specific situation, we can take appropriate measures to try to minimise the harmful effects of these risk factors.



Keeping the heart healthy



Stress is pervasive in our lives today and we need to learn how to manage it effectively. Stress can induce ischaemia by different mechanisms, but it also alters autonomic regulation and triggers the release of circulating catecholamines that can even trigger stress cardiomyopathy. In the 2012 study by Schneider et al, it was shown that meditating twice a day can reduce cardiovascular events by up to 48%.


Diet to prevent heart disease


One of the best-studied dietary approaches in cardiology is the Mediterranean diet, which consists of increasing vegetable and fruit intake, giving preference to whole grains over refined grains, reducing red meat and increasing fish consumption, with a predominant use of olive and rapeseed oil.


Sport for an active heart


The sport with the most cardiovascular benefits would be one that combines aerobic exercise, resistance training and stretching.


Walking 30 minutes a day 5 days a week has been shown to play a beneficial role in cardiovascular risk management. Thus, sports such as running, cycling, jogging, trekking or swimming would fulfil this role. A notable cardiovascular benefit has also been demonstrated with tai chi, a form of martial art from ancient China that is characterised by smooth, flowing movements.

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