The UK has one of the highest death rates from heart disease - or coronary artery disease (CAD) - in the world. Each year 170,000 people die of heart disease or related illnesses in the UK.
However, for individuals with diagnosed conditions, fitness and general exercise is an excellent form of rehabilitation both during the immediate recovery phase and in the long term.
For both men and women, the biggest heart disease risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and age. Although you can't do much about your family history or your age, you can make lifestyle changes to avoid many of the other risk factors of heart conditions:
- Don't smoke. More than half of the cardiac attacks in women under 50 are related to smoking. If you stop smoking, you can lower your risk of attack by one third within 2 years.
Controlling your blood pressure can lower your risk of cardiac attack and stroke.
- Control your cholesterol level. Diet is a key part of lowering high cholesterol levels, though some people may need to take medicine in addition to diet and exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight puts strain on your cardiovascular system. Being overweight means you have a higher risk for many other health problems, especially diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, running or biking, gives your cardiovascular system the best workout. You should exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week.
- Eat a low-fat diet. Keep fat calories to 30% or less of the total calories you take in during a day and avoid saturated fat.
- Take care of diabetes. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, weight control, a low-fat diet and regular doctor visits are important.