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Giving up a few bad habits can help you live longer with less risk of heart disease and stroke. World Heart Federation cardiologist, Professor Antonio Bayés de Luna, recommends these antidotes to the most common risks.

Eating foods are is high in saturated fats and cholesterol and consuming alcohol regularly

If you eat fried foods and red meat regularly, then you're in trouble. Foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol raise the level of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The antidote: Reduce your total fat consumption, especially saturated fats by choosing foods that are less than 5g fat/100g of product and by avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol (e.g. shrimps, liver and eggs). Also reduce your salt consumption, eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and increase your consumption of fish.


You smoke light cigarettes (low-tar) because you're convinced that they are less dangerous than normal cigarettes or you don't smoke but you are regularly in a smoke filled environment.

Don't think that you're out of trouble! Non-smokers who breathe second-hand smoke suffer many of the diseases of active smokers and have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke than non-smokers. It has been proved that smokers who switch to low-tar brands inhale more deeply and smoke more cigarettes than before, and therefore do not reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

The antidote: If you're a smoker, the first thing you have to do is decide whether you really want to quit. Choose your quit date and write it down. Set up your support systems by arranging to quit with a friend and distract yourself by changing your routine. Get rid of all cigarettes, clear out the car, hide all ashtrays and lighters. Smoking is not a habit, it is an addiction to nicotine. Treatments from your doctor or pharmacist can help you to stop smoking.

Lack of exercise

Lack of physical activity, and therefore a sedentary lifestyle is clearly shown to be a risk factor for heart disease and type II diabetes.

The antidote: The heart is a muscle just like any other in our body. Make physical activity a part of your life. Ideally this should include 30 minutes of walking, cycling, gardening, dancing or even housework each day. And if you're fit, you can exercise for longer and with less effort than a person who is not in good condition.

Stress and sleep disorders

We all experience different degrees of stress in our daily life. But when you feel totally stressed at work or at home and can't fall asleep at night, week after week, it is believed that this may be a factor that puts you at greater risk of a heart attack.

Stress-induced hormones put an additional load on your heart and sleep disorders have negative effects on long-term health and can lead to high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke. In many cases, sleep disorders result from stress.

The antidote: While learning to meditate can be difficult initially, here's the incentive- 20 minutes of deep meditation can be equal to three hours' sleep. If you can't meditate, then simply relax and breathe! Exercise is also a great tension reliever.

World Heart Federation President, Professor Mario Maranhão concludes: "Remember that heart disease is not inevitable, it is largely preventable. Preventive measures are, for the most part straightforward and will reduce the incidence of death and disability due to heart disease. We want people around the globe to hear that message on World Heart Day, on 30th September 2001 and take action."

For further information visit:

Sources include:

Dr. David Ashton; 'The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women', London 2000 American Heart Association website, Heart and Stroke A-Z Guide World Health Organization Tobacco Free Initiative Dr. David Ashton; 'The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women', London 2000 Gold Coast Bulletin; 'The importance of beauty sleep' 07/08/2001 Helen Hawkes; 'Have your cake and cheat it&'; Scottish Daily Record 01/08/2001