Doctor's advice: 10 steps to keep your heart healthy
Our heart is one of the most important organs of our body and adopting a healthy way of life can cut down the risk of morbidity and mortality related to heart disease significantly.
Eminent cardiologist, Dr A Naga Srinivaas, Consultant for Interventional Cardiology at Manipal Hospitals, Whitefield lists 10 tips that will help you maintain a healthy heart
1. Eat healthy
Diet perhaps play the most important role in maintaining one's health, including the heart. A healthy nutritious diet is synonymous with healthy heart functioning. Inclusion of vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, egg whites in the daily diet and cutting down on salt (6 gm/d), sugar, processed foods, red meat and refined oils intake has been proven to be good for the heart.
While foods such as vegetables and fish provide essential nutrients and antioxidants for optimal heart functioning, processed food, red meats and refined oils can increase the risk of plaque build-up inside the blood vessels. This increases the risk of coronary heart disease potentially.
2. Regular Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle has been identified as one of the key causes of heart diseases. Exercising 30 minutes, 5 days a week is a great way to beat heart diseases. Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming helps to improve blood circulation to the heart while resistance training helps to burn fat easily.
A combination of both is advised along with stretching exercises. Some of the best ways to keep yourself active are to take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the local market for grocery shopping instead of using the car and engage in an outdoor activity such as badminton with friends or family.
3. Stay at a healthy weight
Obesity can increase the work pressure of your heart significantly and increases the risk of heart diseases greatly. Obesity has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, etc which are some of the most important risk factors for heart diseases. Always aim to maintain an ideal body mass index (BMI) for your height.
A BMI >25 or higher is considered to be overweight and considered bad for heart health. Obese adults who fail to lose weight despite dieting and exercising should seek medical help. Bariatric surgery has been shown to reduce the risk of heart diseases significantly who are extremely overweight for their height.
4. Quit tobacco and stay away from drugs
Smoking promotes plaque build up in the blood vessels and increases the risk of heart diseases. Both active and passive smoking can lead to heart diseases. Quitting smoking and staying away from drug abuse can help you cut down the risk significantly. In case, you are unable to quit, seek professional advice regarding the same.
5. Know your numbers & keep them under control- BP, Sugar and Cholesterol
Your health reports are windows to your heart health. Take charge of your health and keep a periodic track of your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. In a healthy normal person, fasting blood sugar should be between 70-99 mg/dL, blood pressure should be ideally 120/80 and blood low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol should be maintained between 100-129 mg/dL. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is considered to be good cholesterol which has cardioprotective action. It should be ideally maintained above 40 mg/dL.
6. Drink alcohol only in moderation
Heavy drinking has been shown to increase blood pressure, heart failure, stroke and cause damage to the heart muscles. It is best to refrain from a large amount of alcohol intake and drink only in moderation. You are encouraged to seek medical help in case you are a heavy drinker.
7. Good quality sleep for 7 hours a day
Believe it or not, but sleep deprivation can lead to heart diseases, even if you do not have any other health problems. A night of good quality sleep for at least 7 hours a day is essential to keep your heart healthy. Lack of sleep has been shown to promote inflammatory markers in the body, which can harm the heart and promote heart diseases.
8. Manage stress
Keeping stress at bay not makes you look and feel younger but is a great way to a healthy heart. Stress increases the level of cortisol hormone, which promotes diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol-the 3 most important risk factor for heart diseases. Meditating, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, pursuing a hobby, playing a sport or simply spending time with your kids and family are the best way to cope up with stress.
9. Periodic Health Checkups
As the saying goes -- "a stitch in time, saves nine", periodic health check-ups are paramount in preventing heart-related complications. Periodic health check-ups are the best way to pick up an early disease and manage them appropriately in time to prevent future complications. All adults are advised to go for periodic health check-ups once a year or as advised by their health professionals.
10. Seeking Prompt medical attention in case of doubtful symptoms
Chest pain or tightness, breathing difficulty, extreme fatigue, weakness or numbness of the legs, pain in the neck, abdomen or the jaws are few of the warning signs of an impending heart attack. Such symptoms should not be ignored and patients should seek prompt medical attention without any delay. Ideally, the patient should be taken to a multi-speciality hospital equipped with a Catherization laboratory so that necessary emergency procedures can be done right away to save the patient's life.