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Even if our parents take all precautions and are mindful of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime—it is still important for us to be vigilant about their heart health and periodically consult a physician.
As children, it is critical for us to be involved in a parent’s health care—be it in making diet and lifestyle changes, taking multiple medications, or even recognizing side effects or new symptoms.
Being mindful and alert of the symptoms of heart problems is also crucial and since you’re probably living with your parents while reading this, you are in a good position to notice subtle hints such as fatigue, laboured breathing, or even decline in appetite.
Heart disease is overwhelming, both for our parents and us, as caregivers. So, in case, your parents agree, accompany them to their doctor’s appointments. And while you are there, ask the doctors questions which can help you take better care of them.
We spoke to Dr Udgeath Dhir, director and head, CTVS, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram who helped us understand the answers to a few important questions that you need to ask your parent’s physician in case they are suffering from heart disease:
1. How frequently should I monitor their blood pressure?
Dr Udgeath recommends taking a blood pressure reading one or twice a month for someone who is a heart patient. This will help you keep a close eye on your parent’s heart health.
2. What kind of diet is best suited for my parents?
According to the doctor, the best diet for someone who is suffering from a heart condition is a ‘rainbow diet’. This refers to a diet plan which is characterised by moderation along with a healthy percentage of all vegetables.
Make sure you include tomatoes, beetroots, spinach, carrot and all vegetables resembling the colours of a rainbow. Add some nuts such as walnuts given that they are very good for heart health. If you’re a non-vegetarian, include white meat such as fish to provide the heart with healthy fats.
That said, there are certain foods you need to avoid. Reduce their salt intake considerably since it could have a negative impact on their blood pressure. What’s more? Try to cut out frozen foods from the diet because they contain a high amount of salt for preservation. A heart patient should ideally avoid cashews and raisins. If they are non-vegetarians, ensure that they give up red meat such as mutton.
3. How intense should their exercise routine be?
For this, you would need to identify heart disease. The physical activity recommended will depend on the seriousness of your condition, according to Dr Udgeath. For someone who is dealing with minor blood pressure issues, 30 minutes of cardio five times a week is encouraged. However, in the case of a serious heart ailment, doctors usually conduct certain tests at the hospital. There’s an authorised chart that is taken into account when measuring the results of the tests and recommending exercises.
4. Are heart diseases hereditary?
Yes, heart diseases can be hereditary. Dr Udgeath says that someone whose parent suffers from a heart disease should be more vigilant about their heart health. He mentioned that you should start going for annual checkups around the same age at which your parent was diagnosed. Doing so can help in the prevention of heart diseases.
Having a clear roadmap will help you tend to our parents. However, in the process, also take care of yourself by surrounding yourself with people who support you emotionally.