With incidences of heart disease at an all-time high, we talk to a leading health professional to discover how to stay heart-healthy.

What are the indicators that you might be at higher risk of developing heart disease?

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease. There are those that can be modified and those that cannot. Age, gender and family history are the common non-modifiable risk factors. With increasing age, the chance of heart disease increases corresponding. In general, heart disease occurs more frequently in men than women, until several years after menopause. As expected, individuals with family history of premature heart disease are more likely to suffer from it.

On the other hand, there are the modifiable risk factors. The presence of such a factor increases the risk of heart disease but managing it reduces its likelihood. These indicators include cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, abnormal blood lipid levels, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and a competitive personality. There are other newer risk factors that are being evaluated and their significance is still being evaluated.

Which are the main risk factors for heart disease?

The major modifiable risk factors are cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, abnormal blood lipid levels and obesity. Generally, the presence of one of these factors increases the likelihood for developing heart disease by 3 to 5 times. The greater number of these factors present in an individual, the higher risk.

What would be the single most important thing women can do to protect themselves?

The single most important thing is to eat healthily. Although it can be stated easily, the practice of healthy eating can be both elusive and challenging.  There are several schools of thoughts regarding what is the best diet.  A plant-based approach is likely to be healthier, try taking vegetables of a variety of colours.  Fish is good.  Food may be grilled or broiled.  Avoid processed foods, salt and refined sugars.