Categories: Cardiology

Prevention of Heart Diseases: Steps to Take for a Healthy Heart

Heart disease is preventable by adopting certain lifestyle changes and practices. Despite being a leading cause of death with a lot of inherited risk factors such as family history and metabolic disorders, heart disease is not unavoidable. Here are ways to prevent heart disease

Exercise regularly:

Daily physical activity keeps a check on your body weight and prevents a rise in cholesterol, sugar, and blood pressure levels that may affect normal cardiac activity.
You should aim to do at least twenty to thirty minutes of brisk activity every day for a healthy heart. Choose to take the stairs, walk instead of driving to a store nearby, or even take a stroll around the office every few hours if you’re unable to manage dedicated time for exercise in your daily schedule.

Quit smoking:

Inhaling smoke from tobacco, first-hand or second-hand, is the worst thing you can do to your heart. Cigarette smoking causes constriction of small and large blood vessels as well as reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, in turn putting a lot of strain on the heart. As the number of days since you quit smoking increases, the risk of acquiring heart disease significantly drops.

Eat healthly:

Make a conscious decision to improve your diet by limiting unhealthy items in your menu and increasing the intake of heart-friendly foods. Having a healthy diet plan helps to reduce the risk of Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, and aids in keeping the cholesterol levels in check.

Foods to include in your diet daily include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Pulses and legumes
  • Lean meat- such as chicken and fish
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats and oils- such as olive oil

Food items to avoid or limit include:

  • Processed food and meat
  • Saturated fat and trans fat- found in red meat and fat-rich dairy products
  • Salt
  • Sugar and sugary drinks
  • Alcohol

Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index or BMI:

Being overweight puts a lot of strain on the heart and increases the risk of heart disease. BMI or Body Mass Index is calculated using the height and weight of a person and gives an estimate of the percentage of body fat. Maintaining your BMI below 25 helps to be healthy. A higher BMI is usually associated with higher cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disorders.

Waist circumference is also a good way to measure abdominal fat. A waist circumference of over 40 inches for men and over 35 inches for women is a risk factor for heart ailments.

Prioritize a good night’s sleep:

Lack of sleep can not only affect your performance at work and daily activities but can also adversely affect your health. Lack of sleep can also result in a spectrum of ailments such as high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, obesity, and heart attack. Adults ideally should be getting seven hours of sleep a day. Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure you get a good night’s sleep:

  • Do not browse your phone or any electronic devices once you hit the bed.
  • Avoid caffeine after 6 in the evening.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule, on the weekends as well.
  • Make sure you sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow

In case you feel you have had a good night’s sleep, but still wake up feeling groggy or lethargic, you could have obstructive sleep apnoea. This condition is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. If diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea, you could be advised to lose weight to relieve symptoms or use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.

Learn to manage the stress in your life:

Stress can be from work, during your daily commute, or due to domestic issues. Most people find unhealthy ways to cope with stress, such as over-eating, drinking, or smoking. Finding better ways to manage them can help tremendously. Practising meditation, yoga, or regular exercise can help cope with stress.

Get regular health check-ups:

Increased blood pressure or cholesterol levels can damage blood vessels and heart. Screening for these conditions regularly is a must for every adult. Blood pressure should be measured from the age of 18 years and followed up every two years if normal. After the age of forty, the annual evaluation of blood pressure is advised. Testing for cholesterol usually begins at 18 years and is done every 4-6 years, unless recommended otherwise.

Screening for Type II Diabetes is recommended from the age of forty-five years as it usually has a late-onset. If you have other risk factors such as a family history of diabetes or obesity, you may have to undergo screening from an earlier age.

If you’re diagnosed with any of the risk factors such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, or Type II Diabetes, the doctor may advise you to take medication or follow lifestyle modifications. Make sure you follow these recommendations to keep your heart healthy and live longer.

Dr. Anand Lingan, Consultant Cardiology – Paediatric, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Mysore

Narayana Health

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