Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) affect the heart and its blood vessels. Irregular heart rhythms, coronary artery disease, congenital heart conditions, heart attack, and stroke come under Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs). Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are the most common causes of death globally.
According to World Health Organization, approximately 18 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2016, one-third of the total deaths globally. The story is the same for India as well.
Behavioral factors like tobacco consumption, obesity, limited physical activity, and unhealthy diet contribute to most CVDs.
Coronary Artery Diseases are more common in South Asians, including Indians more commonly than in any other race globally. India has the highest burden of coronary artery disease in the world. According to some studies, Indians tend to get a heart attack at a younger age when compared to western people.
It’s high time that we start taking our heart health seriously. The first step can be marking out all risk factors and taking corrective actions against them. Some risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, excessive body weight, and a sedentary lifestyle. Remember, lifestyle and dietary changes can be our biggest weapons against heart disease.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
A healthy body weight reduces the risk of heart disease. If you have too much fat- especially around the waist, you are at increased risk of heart disease. We know the importance of a balanced diet in maintaining a healthy weight.
But we often ignore the importance of proper timing of having meals. Some healthy eating habits are:
- Have breakfast within one hour of getting up from bed
- Eat after every three hours. Six meals a day is an excellent strategy to keep your metabolism rate high
- Do not eat anything at least three hours before going to bed
- Do not skip meals as it may slow down the metabolism
- Eat small meals
Some studies say that taking small frequent meals gives the following benefits:
- Increases BMR
- Increases energy levels
- Decreases appetite
- Help reducing weight
Know how to differentiate between good and bad fats
Our heart relishes good fats. You can add more healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and omega-3 fatty acids, to your diet plan. Some good sources of healthy fats are:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Rice Bran Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Mustard Oil
One should reduce intake of saturated fats like:
- Red meat
MUFA reduces low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and increases high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol).
It is always good to rotate your oils monthly, so both PUFA and MUFA are in the required quantity.
Choose good carbohydrates over bad ones
Did you know that all carbohydrates are not the same? Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index can have drastic effects on cholesterol levels, thus increasing your susceptibility to heart disease. According to some epidemiologic studies, a carbohydrate diet with a low glycemic index and high fibre content may protect one from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. You can:
- Go for complex carbohydrates.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates
- Have unrefined whole grains like Dalia, brown rice, oats, whole wheat, and barley
- Avoid carbonated drinks, pasta, white bread, and processed food
Antioxidants are good for heart health
Increase intake of antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and beta carotene. Foods rich in antioxidants are whole grains, nuts, fruits, seeds, and vegetables. The antioxidants protect our heart from free radicals injury and damage. So start your day with almonds and walnuts to reduce LDL.
Fibers are the right choice
Fibers lower bad cholesterol and protect you from any heart disease. A fiber-rich diet can help in reducing weight.
Your diet should contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. Barleys, nuts, beans, berries, apples, and oatmeals are good sources of soluble fibers. Fruits and vegetables have an abundance of insoluble fibers. One should strictly avoid transfats as they not only increase the bad fat or LDL levels but can decrease the HDL levels.
Avoid sedentary lifestyle
A healthy diet can show miracles if coupled with physical activity. According to American Heart Association, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous workout can help maintain blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve overall heart health.
The heart is essential for survival. It works tirelessly for us. Let’s try to give something back to this amazing organ. Even our small dietary and lifestyle changes are enough to make it healthy.
Dr. Anand Kumar Pandey, Director & Senior Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi.