Heart disease or CVD, being the leading cause of death, demands immediate attention. But it is not exquisite efforts or any self-proclaimed supplements, that can render your health. It can be assured with simple, basic steps, right from your home and kitchen, that will make a healthy, sustainable impact.
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The emergence of heart diseases
With the increased urbanization, time scarcity is one of the main issues that every other person is facing. This results in increased inclination towards easy-to-prepare and ready-to-eat kind of options which are available in surplus amount for every age group, social stratum, and every physiological state.
Dealing with stressful life whilst seeking easy solutions, consumption of calorie-rich foods with nil physical activity is leading to various lifestyle disorders, heart diseases in particular.
Though the country is witnessing an improvement in the under-five mortality rate and decreased death due to infections, the new challenge is to control the increasing mortality rate caused by non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension and of course, CVDs, leading the list.
Statistics to consider
As per the report by the World Health Organization, 2017, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) is the topmost cause of all deaths globally. With an estimated 17.7 million deaths, it represents 31 percent of total deaths worldwide.
In India, as per the Global Burden of Disease Report, 2017, CVDs being the leading cause, has lead to 1.7 million deaths in 2016 alone.
To address this alarming issue, organizations are working at national and international level but the efficient output can be obtained only if we start working upon the root cause, right from our kitchen involving our daily routine.
Steps to a healthy heart
Seven basic steps are all you need to inculcate for healthy, disease-free heart.
Switch to heart-friendly diet
With diet being the major contributing factor impacting your health, it is of vital importance to include heart-friendly diet. By this, we refer to a set of dietary guidelines which includes-
Complex carbs– Complex carbs as in fiber, helps in preventing heart disease by absorbing blood cholesterol and also, by preventing overeating because of satiety value.
Prefer complex carbs over refined carbs. The food source of complex carbs includes whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Include more of grains like oats, barley, millets in place of refined wheat flour and related products.
Have a good amount of protein– Protein is another key nutrient, that helps in preventing heart diseases by accelerating the metabolic rate, hence, help in exhausting stored fat reservoirs for energy expenditure.
Include high protein sources like lean meat, egg whites, low-fat dairy products, beans, and legumes.
Be friends with good fats– It includes omega- 3 and omega- 6 fats, that actually helps in preventing heart diseases by lowering the LDL cholesterol level and reducing the incidence of inflammation.
Have more nuts, seeds, and seafood which are good for the heart.
Phytonutrients– This constitutes the emerging category of ‘Superfoods’, which are rich in compounds like flavonoids and phenols that exhibit antioxidant properties, lowering the risk of oxidative stress and related damage. These are included in fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs.
Avoid commercial food products like processed and packaged foods, baked goods and sweetened beverages. These are the main source of simple carbs and saturated fats, that have the tendency to accumulate in the blood vessels.
Drink water– Most important aspect, which is generally been ignored, is the water consumption. Keeping yourself hydrated is of utmost importance, that helps body cells to be metabolically active.
Indulge in a physical activity
Like diet, any form of physical activity is equally important to ensure heart-healthy life. The aerobic activity is considered most appropriate for the health of heart and lungs.
The American Heart Association, for the overall cardiovascular health, minimum 30 minutes of moderate intensity of aerobic activity per day or 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes is necessary.
It includes activities like running, cycling, swimming, dancing and even light intensity activities like gardening and moving grocery cart around the store.
Maintain a healthy weight
By healthy weight, we refer to your BMI (Body Mass Index), which is the relation of body weight in kg divided with the height in meter square.
The parameter of BMI is used to quantify the tissue mass and on the basis of height and weight, determines the fat content. The categories under BMI determines the physical state of an individual that may help in taking relevant actions accordingly.
Table: classification of BMI as prescribed by WHO
Obesity class I
Obesity class II
Obesity class III
Increased weight has a detrimental effect on normal body functioning that leads to metabolic disorders out of which CVD is a major one. The salient feature of obesity is excess fat accumulation in the body parts, around visceral organs and inside blood vessels, that act as a predisposing factor for heart disease. Therefore, through lifestyle modification that includes
- Physical activity
- Behavior aspects, a healthy weight can be achieved and maintained as well.
Ensure sufficient sound sleep
Sleep, despite being a crucial health factor, is easily taken for granted. Studies have suggested that sleep deprivation or a duration of less than 6 hours have a harmful impact on heart health.
The underlying reason is the increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system that causes fluctuation and elevation in blood pressure because of increased heart rate, constriction of blood vessels and even, salt retention.
The condition of hypertension, in turn, can result in disorders like cardiac arrest, failure and even, stroke.
Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
It’s a proven fact that smoking and alcohol consumption is one of the causative factors for CVDs. On the other hand, quitting smoking has been associated with improved blood oxygen level, efficient circulation as well as regular heart rhythm.
Smoking causes narrowing of arteries due to plaque formation which in turn, can give rise to complications like atherosclerosis.
Also, smoking results in a condition of hypertension due to lack of sufficient oxygen in blood with the presence of carbon monoxide. These consequences ultimately can lead to heart diseases in long run.
Similarly, alcohol consumption is associated with heart disease due to its empty calorie content, which does not provide any nutrient value but extra calories. If not utilized, this calorie accumulates in the body as stored fat.
Focus on stress management
In the present scenario, a stress-free life is hard to imagine. Busy work schedule, balancing between work and home, coping with stressful situations; all take a toll on an individual’s health.
When facing stress, the body responds by secreting chemicals like epinephrine and cortisol, that induces a chain of reaction. Besides other reactions, it also includes increased heart rate, rapid blood flow, and inflammation as well. If remain unchecked, these responses can cause a harmful impact on heart health.Therefore, it is necessary to keep your mind peaceful and stress-free. For example-
- Encourage consumption of a healthy diet
- Focus on working out
- Stay positive
- Practice yoga and meditation
- Spend quality time with family, friends or pursuing a hobby.
Be regular with health check-ups
Amidst the ups and downs of your busy daily routine, it is primarily the health, which is being compromised. Biochemical aspects or the blood parameters are the attributes, which doesn’t come to notice but leads to severe damage if remain unchecked. Therefore, its regular monitoring is of utmost importance, for parameters like-
- Blood glucose level– Both fasting and postprandial along with glycosylated hemoglobin levels- helps in diagnosing the condition of diabetes.
- Blood cholesterol levels– Levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL in blood, play a vital role in determining the heart health.
- Blood pressure– The parameter of blood pressure should be checked at regular interval for analyzing its impact on heart health.
- Hormone levels– Hormones like thyroid, calcitonin, sex hormones, insulin, and glucagon level should also be checked on a regular basis, as its imbalance is directly proportional to the effect on body’s metabolism.
- Other blood parameters– It includes values of Vitamin D, uric acid, blood composition, etc. The fluctuated values again signify the distortion in the body’s normal functioning, that needs to be checked.
It’s these basic steps, which, if included in daily routine, can bring significant changes for, healthy you and your healthy heart. The magic begins right from your home, right from your day-to-day routine.