India is continuously witnessing an increasing number of heart attacks and other cardiac diseases under fifty years of age. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased this number. But with little awareness, we can reduce our vulnerability towards these heart ailments. Here we will discuss five harmful habits that can herald the coming of heart disease.
- Sitting too long
During this pandemic, most of the people are voluntary or involuntary working from home. But only a few of us know that sitting is the new smoking. A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of heart diseases.
According to a study published in 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, individuals who sit less than 30 minutes at a time, can have a fifty-five percent lower risk as compared to those who sit for thirty minutes or more at a stretch.
A sedentary lifestyle can be very damaging to your heart. During the sitting, our blood flow slows down. It can increase the chances of fat deposition in our blood vessels leading to various heart diseases.
- Overconsumption of alcohol
Some people believe that moderate alcohol consumption is good for the heart, while others don’t agree with it. The effect of moderate alcohol consumption on the heart is open for debate, but there is a universal accord on the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the heart.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm to the heart, optimal alcohol consumption is two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women. The safe quantity is 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits (gin, rum, vodka, whisky), 12 ounces of beer, or 4 ounces of wine.
Excessive alcohol intake may cause high blood pressure, stroke, or heart failure. It can also lead to a disease of heart muscles known as cardiomyopathy. Excessive drinking may also interrupt normal heart beating.
- Excessive salt consumption
Tasty food always attracts us. A pinch of salt and other spices arouses our senses and taste glands. But excess of everything is bad. In addition to it, we are unaware of the sources of hidden sodium like packeted soups, chips, frozen dinners, and lunch meat. Excessive sodium consumption over time can increase blood pressure. This can stiffen and narrows the blood vessels. Now to pump the blood throughout the body heart makes more effort which further increases the blood pressure. It can put an incredible strain on the heart. Unchecked hypertension may damage the artery walls. These damaged walls can elevate fat deposition potentially leading to heart attack or stroke.
We all know that smoking can lead to lung cancer and various breathing disorders. But only some of us are aware that smoking increases the risk of various heart diseases.
Smoking may tighten major arteries, increases heart rate, and can cause irregular heart rhythm, thus making it difficult for our heart to pump blood throughout the body.
Nicotine and other chemicals (tar, carbon monoxide) present in cigarettes can lead to the deposition of fatty plaque in arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis). These chemicals can affect cholesterol and fibrinogen (a blood-clotting material) levels, thus increasing the risk of blood clot development that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Unlike alcohol, there is no safe amount of smoking. Even the light and occasional smoking can badly damage your heart and blood vessels.
- Stressing yourself too much
Stress depends on person to person. Situations which are stressful for one may not be stressful for others. Similarly, everyone reacts differently to a stressful situation. The stress you experience can lead to a variety of heart problems.
The release of the hormone cortisol during stress is supposed to protect us. But at high levels, it causes significant harmful effects. According to some studies, a high level of cortisol from long-term stress may increase blood sugar, blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. All these can promote the build-up of plaque deposits in arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart diseases.
Luckily, one can decrease the effect of stress on the body.
Always try to control your mental and physical reactions to stressful situations. You can try yoga, exercise, or rely on your support system (friends and family) to cope with stress and reduce its effect on your heart.