While there are many aspects to health and well-being, heart health is a growing concern, especially in India. According to National Library of Medicine (NIH), India in 2016 attributed 28.1 percent of total deaths to cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared with 15.2 percent in 1990. This jump in just 26 years is enough evidence that sustained efforts are required to understand the risk of heart diseases. Therefore, healthy habits need to be inculcated to help control the epidemic, especially in the younger population.
Increasing awareness and promoting lifestyle changes that can prevent heart ailment is necessary. Also, good health habits should be appropriately instilled during childhood so that heart ailments are kept in check and prevented.
Keeping your heart healthy is more than not eating fast food and processed items. You can pump up your heart’s health by choosing foods that effectively reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.
A prime example of this kind of food is oats, as they are high in the soluble fibre beta-glucan, which has numerous health benefits. Oats reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promote healthy gut bacteria, and increase the feeling of fullness, thereby contributing to weight loss as well.
Another category of food that can help reduce heart-related issues is fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout and sardines. Here, you can add crustaceans such as lobster, oysters, and squid as well.
All of them contain health-protective omega-3s, precisely the long-chain variety known as LC Omega-3, which contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Long-chain omega-3s have been shown in human clinical trials to prevent heart attacks by helping the heart maintain its rhythm. They are also effective in making blood less likely to clot, lowering blood pressure, keeping blood vessels healthy, reducing triglycerides and decreasing inflammation. That’s quite a list.
Other food items that promote heart health and prevent heart diseases include dark leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard and mustard greens. Nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, almonds, flaxseeds, macadamia nuts and hazelnuts, avocadoes, legumes, and low-fat dairy items are good for the heart too.
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Staying physically active is a critical and unmissable step if you want to maintain good heart health for the rest of your life. It helps strengthen the heart muscle, maintain good body weight, and ward off artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Ahead are two types of exercise that you should add to your daily regime.
Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which will reduce your blood pressure. Some forms of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis and jumping rope.
Aerobic exercises must be done for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
For people carrying a lot of body fat, resistance training can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass, especially if you have a bulky stomach. Some forms of resistance training include working out with free weights (like dumbbells or barbells), using weight machines, resistance bands, or body-resistance exercises, such as push-ups, squats, and chin-ups.
Resistance training must be done at least two days a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes.
The coronary arteries in the heart supply oxygen and nutrients to other organs in the body. Over time, fatty deposits (or plaque) can build up inside the coronary arteries, which reduce the flow of blood to the heart and increases the risk of a heart attack. When a person is smoking, this clogging and narrowing of coronary arteries can happen very quickly in a short duration of time.
If you smoke, your risk of:
Smoking is also dangerous for those who experience second-hand smoke as they have a 30 percent increase in the risk of heart diseases. This is especially risky for children and increases the risk of sudden unexplained death in infants (SUDI), bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.
Stress can sometimes lead to high blood pressure, and this, in turn, can result in a heart attack and stroke. Stress is equally responsible for cardiovascular disease as smoking, an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity.
A 2017 study in The Lancet used images of a part of the brain involved with fear and stress and found links between stress and cardiovascular disease episodes. To minimize continual stress, you must have your priorities in place for what is most important and aim for a good life-work balance. Also, remember that sleep and stress are interconnected as lack of sleep can lead to more stress. Every person must get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
It is said that ‘prevention is better than cure’, and with modern lifestyle problems, this term is genuinely relevant for everyone. There are different health tests for diagnosing any condition related to the heart. There are no risks involved in taking these tests, and they are highly recommended as they allow your doctor to understand how your heart is working.
If you have been showing any symptoms related to heart disease or if anyone in your family has had a heart attack in the past, it is best to get tested to reduce and eliminate the chances of you having to undergo the same.
People who have diabetes and hypertension are also at a high risk for heart attacks. This is because high blood pressure can cause a strain on your heart arteries that can then result in them bursting. On the other hand, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage the blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels.
With time, this can lead to cardiovascular issues as it has been seen that people with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes. In such cases, early diagnosis and treatment are important and they have been proven to save lives – so make sure you visit the doctor regularly, even if you are in the best of health.
If you have questions or comments about your heart health, we recommend you reach out to a doctor/specialized expert at the earliest.