Heart disease is a leading cause of death in India. But, we can prevent heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few heart disease prevention tips.
Smoking (both active and second hand) is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can form atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, leading to narrowing of the coronary arteries and thus, restricting the blood flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis makes the heart work harder, increasing heart rate and blood pressure to get sufficient oxygen and nutrition. When one or more of the coronary arteries are completely blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle- Myocardial infarction) may occur.
Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at greater risk of having a heart attack than are those who don't do either. This risk increases with age, especially in women who are older than 35 years. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Even smoking occasionally may be dangerous and increases the risk of heart disease. When we quit smoking, the risk of our heart disease drops dramatically within just one year. No matter how long or how much we smoked, we will start reaping rewards as soon as we quit.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet:
Eating a special heart-healthy diet helps to protect our heart. A heart-healthy diet is low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Limiting saturated fat (found in red meat, dairy products, coconut and palm oils, etc.) and trans-fat (found in deep-fried fast food, bakery products, packaged snack foods, margarines, crackers, etc.) is important as these fats increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. Actually, atherosclerosis is the build-up cholesterol and fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries. The effect of atherosclerosis on the heart has been discussed already. Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of poly-unsaturated fat (found in some fishes like salmon and mackerel, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and canola oil, etc.) may decrease the risk of heart attack, protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. At a moderate level, alcohol consumption (no more than two drinks a day for men, and one a day for women) can have a protective effect on the heart. A diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, helps protect the heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein, also reducesthe risk of heart disease.
Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce the risk of fatal heart diseases. When we combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the benefits are even greater. Physical activity helps control weight and can reduce chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also reduces stress, which may be a factor in heart diseases. We should get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits.
Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase the chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. A male is considered overweight if his waist measurement is greater than 40 inches and a female is considered overweight if her waist measurement is greater than 35 inches. Moreover, persons with Body mass index (BMI) numbers 25 and higher have risk of heart disease. Even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing weight by just 10 percent can decrease our blood pressure, lower our blood cholesterol level and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Get Regular Health Screenings:
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can damage the heart and blood vessels. Regular blood pressure, lipid profile and diabetic screening can warn us against developing heart diseases and we can take action to prevent it. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least after every two years, lipid profile measured at least once every five years starting at age 20 and testing for diabetes every three to five years between ages 30 and 45.These may need more frequent testing if the numbers aren't ideal or if the individual has other risk factors for heart diseases. Some children may need their lipid profile to be tested if they have a strong family history of heart disease.
(Dr.DharmakantaKumbhakar can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)