Simple alterations in your lifestyle can help in keeping your heart healthy and pumping, says Dr. Vasundhra Atre, Medical Director, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. While there has been a remarkable change in the way heart disease is seen and understood today, it remains the world’s number one killer; being responsible for one in every three deaths.
We live in an era of fast cars, colas, burgers, computers and remote controls. Lifestyle-related diseases are the price one pays for economic prosperity and modern way of life. No doubt that the genetic make-up of a person influences the condition of their heart, but it is one’s lifestyle that becomes the real trigger.
Advances in diagnostic tools, health awareness and improved access to healthcare facilities have helped shatter the myths that once surrounded heart disease. Once considered a disease of the rich countries, 80% of the 17 million deaths, caused by heart disease occurring today, are seen in low and middle-income countries.
The factors at play
Diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal lipid profiles, tobacco, lack of physical activity, unhealthy nutrition, obesity, heavy alcohol intake, stress, and family history continue to be the major risk factors for developing heart disease. Although, the profile of individuals suffering from heart disease has changed with urbanization, largely due to their associated lifestyle patterns.The gender bias in favor of women has also changed. Deaths among women due to heart disease are eighteen times higher than breast cancer.
Hitting you early
It is no longer considered a problem of the elderly. Even children are at increased risk with an increasing number indulging in tobacco smoking (active and passive), being overweight or obese; the lack of physical activity is a further contributor. We are seeing an Increasing number of middle-aged individuals undergoing interventions for coronary artery disease.
The good news, 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable.Fortunately, the age of the heart is determined not only by one’s chronological age but also by how fit the heart is.
You can slow the aging process of the heart, by adopting a calorie restricted, nutritionally-balanced diet. Have plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean meat, fish, and pulses, alongside low-fat and fat-free products. Prefer unsaturated soft margarine and oils such as sunflower, corn, rapeseed and olive oil while restricting the salt and sugar intake.
If children are overweight attempt to modify their diet pattern. Do not restrict the calories but replace potato chips, hamburgers, and pizzas with healthy foods. Encourage physical activity to burn the calories.Regular meals and an early dinner are advisable. If partying, eat an early light dinner. It will be easier to avoid the fatty foods. Avoid alcohol.
Say ‘NO’ to Tobacco
Tobacco use is one of the most important risk factors that need to be controlled. Quitting tobacco helps to keep the heart young. It lowers the “bad” cholesterol levels, reduces blood clotting and the chance of a sudden blockage of an artery. One must know that passive smoking also increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 to 30 percent. The risk of heart attack starts to drop immediately when a person stops using tobacco products. The best way to stop is ‘STOP’.
For a young heart for life, balance the calories burned with calories consumed. The heart like any other muscle needs regular exercise to keep it fit. Regular exercise helps slow down the narrowing of the arteries to the heart and brain. The body is encouraged to burn the excess stored fat, thus helping in weight loss and in controlling obesity. The level of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood is increased, improving cholesterol levels. In diabetics, it helps to maintain normal blood glucose levels. It reduces high blood pressure. Smokers who exercise are twice as successful in their attempts to stop smoking. The only side effect of exercise is an improvement of overall health. The ‘feeling well’ is enhanced with more energy, stress reduction, stronger bones and muscles with improvement in balance, strength, and mobility.
The dictum is regular physical activity. A combination of aerobic, strengthening and stretching exercises are advised. For adults, at least thirty minutes of exercise a day and for children an hour a day will help reduce risk factors, maintain cardiovascular fitness and a healthy weight.
Exercise programs should be started slowly and the intensity and frequency increased gradually preferably under supervision.The ideal way is to inculcate activity in the daily routine. Climb stairs avoid the elevator. Don’t ask for things to be handed to you get it yourself. Do not cab it, prefer to walk.
Add an adequate sleep routine and distressing technique and you have the formula for a happier and younger heart. Lifestyle modification is a change in the way one thinks and lives. Love, laughter and healthy habits have therapeutic value. Adopt them.