WHO knows best

PHOTO: WHO knows best

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 17.3 million people died of heart diseases such as heart attack or stroke in 2008.

However, it says on its website that 80 per cent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable and the key to this is in following a healthy diet, regular physical activity and not using tobacco products.

Here are some tips offered by WHO:

Healthy diet: A balanced diet is crucial to a healthy heart and circulation system. This should include plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and pulses while consumption of salt, sugar and fat should be low.

Regular physical activity: At least 30 minutes of regular physical activity every day helps to maintain cardiovascular fitness; at least 60 minutes on most days helps to maintain healthy weight.

Avoid tobacco use: Tobacco in every form is very harmful to health – cigarettes, cigars, pipes or chewable tobacco. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is also dangerous. The risk of heart attack and stroke starts to drop immediately after a person stops using tobacco products, and can drop by as much as half after one year.

Know your blood pressure: High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but can cause a sudden stroke or heart attack. Have your blood pressure checked.

Know your blood sugar: Raised blood glucose (diabetes) increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. If you suffer from diabetes, it is very important to control your blood pressure and blood sugar to minimise the risk.

Know your blood lipids: Raised blood cholesterol and abnormal blood lipids increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Blood cholesterol needs to be controlled through a healthy diet and, if necessary, by appropriate medication.