We all wish to have a long and healthy life, but not everyone has been able to unlock the ‘big secret’. As per The Danish Twin Study, 20% of your life expectancy relies on your genetics. But guess what? The other 80% all depends on how you lead your life. Yes ladies, the key to a long life is in your hands!
You might be unaware of this but the Japanese boast the longest life expectancy: 87.1 years for women, and 81.1 years for women. They’ve stayed at the top for almost decades now, and the reason behind this is their nutrient-rich diet, healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), and several other heart-friendly habits.
That’s exactly why we’ve got Dr. Sarita Rao, senior interventional cardiologist and director, Cath Lab – Apollo Hospitals, Indore, to tell you all about the heart-friendly habits that you must follow to lead a long and healthy life.
But before that, let’s understand the risk factors for heart-related ailments.
What causes heart-related ailments?
Unfortunately, there has been a rise in the number of young heart attack victims in India, and there are about two million such cases every year in India, shares Dr. Rao.
“About 50% of these heart attacks occur in men, who are less than 50 years, while another 25% of these heart-related ailments happen in men under the age of 40. Women show symptoms that are different, but they are equally susceptible to heart attacks,” she explains.
Some of the biggest risk factors for heart attacks include a family history of the condition, and unhealthy lifestyle choices such as overconsumption of junk food, smoking, acute stress, lack of exercise, obesity and hypertension.
“A heart attack damages or kills a part of the heart muscle, due to ischemia (restriction of blood supply to the tissues). Some of the warning signs of this condition include chest discomfort, upper body pain, and shortness of breath, as well as an unusual feeling beginning at the centre of the chest that eventually radiates out. Some people can also experience discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach,” warns Dr. Rao.
These are the heart-friendly habits of the oldest people
Dr. Rao feels there’s nothing to worry about, but it’s always better to be ‘safe than sorry’. There are some simple and practical tips, according to her, that can help you maintain good heart health.
1. Shed excess weight and be physically active
“Obesity is a modifiable risk factor for heart attacks. This is particularly true for those women, who have a family history of the disease. Engage in at least 30-45 minutes of physical activity at least 4-5 days a week. This will help you avoid excess weight gain and prevent heart problems in the longer run. Walking up and down the stairs, dancing, doing housework all count,” advises Dr. Rao.
2. Quit smoking
Believe it or not, the resting heart rate of young smokers is two to three beats per minute faster than that of non-smokers in their age group, says Dr. Rao. There are times when young people give in to smoking because of peer pressure or several other reasons. It might seem cool at that point, but it has several negative consequences.
“Young minds are impressionable, and getting addicted to nicotine hardly takes time in their case. Peer pressure, stress caused due to the increasing trend of nuclear families, high rate of divorces, increased competition in schools and colleges, are some of the factors that influence the trend of early tobacco addiction. That’s exactly why it is important to quit right at the onset,” she adds.
It is a known fact that smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by narrowing arteries over a sustained period of time. So, kick that cigarette butt immediately.
3. Consume a balanced diet
A balanced diet that is composed of proteins, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and fibre is good for the heart. What’s most important is to cut down on processed food, advises Dr. Rao.
“Substitute unhealthy food items for healthier alternatives. Have fruits to fulfil your sugar cravings, and swap sodas for alternatives like coconut water. Remember how in the yesteryears , it was all about keeping it simple and cooking using common kitchen ingredients. Avoid fast, pre-packaged and junk food which is high in trans fat and preservatives,” she explains.
4. Go for regular health checkups
“Get checked regularly. Keep your vitals such as blood pressure and sugar under check. If you notice any fluctuations, consult a specialist immediately,” cautions Dr. Rao.
5. Keep stress at bay
The incidence of heart disease was much lower, when there were no phones and computers, or work stressors and family pressure, says Dr. Rao.
“People led a simple life, which wasn’t as fast paced as the one we live today. Learn from that, and remember to relax and unwind every now and then, and find some time for yourself. A little stress is normal, but constant stress can have an irreversible effect on your heart health,” she warns.
So, keep these tips in mind, and say hello to a healthy and a happy heart!
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