It’s never too late to take care of your heart; whether you’re old or young, it’s important that you follow a routine that encourages a healthy heart and prevents the early onset of cardiovascular diseases. This means making smart choices and creating healthy habits that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
In this article, we will go through some Frequently Asked Questions that patients have asked cardiologists over the years. We have got our panel of top cardiologists at Narayana Health to address your questions about heart health and dispel certain myths that prevail around a heart healthy lifestyle. These heart health tips will help you maintain a healthy heart at any decade of your life.
Q 1: What’s the best possible thing I can do as part of my daily routine for Heart Health?
It’s said that most of the risk that comes with Heart diseases is because of genetics, but we can take proactive steps to delay the onset of any cardiac diseases
. A major reason for a higher incidence of heart diseases in our country is because of unhealthy habits and routines that include vices such as smoking and drinking. Not many people are aware that even second-hand smoking can lead to a higher risk of developing heart diseases.
Another major constituent of heart diseases is the recent change in lifestyle that includes the consumption of junk food, alcohol consumption, little to no activity, and so on. All these components can be fixed by consuming healthy foods, regular workouts, and keeping an eye on your weight.
Although there can be a bit of confusion when it comes to what kind of diet you should follow, a heart-healthy diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, a limited dairy, and fat consumption. Consult your cardiologist for a clear cut heart healthy diet plan that’s right for you.
For instance, if your family suffers from a history of heart disease then it is essential to take proactive steps to minimize your heart disease risk, you can start by changing your sedentary lifestyle into an active one. This will involve loads of activities that will get your heart rate up, like a brisk walk, hiking up a hill, jogging, swimming, or biking. You can engage in these physical activities at least three times a week, for thirty minutes.
Almost everybody lives a hectic and busy life, and this means that it’s almost impossible to carve out some time to exercise or prepare a heart-healthy meal, every day. This is why discipline, routine, and consistency come into the picture.
Making preventive heart health checkups part of your medical regimen can also help you diagnose any risk of heart disease early on and take corrective action.
Q 2: What exactly is a Heart Healthy diet? Is there such a thing?
There is a load of confusion and disagreement over what a healthy heart diet, even more debate on what diet you should follow to lose weight. Irrespective of the kind of food that you consume the most important factor to your diet’s success is maintaining a calorie deficit. This means a reduced number of calories than your maintenance calories. To calculate how many calories you need for maintenance, you can use an online calorie calculator.
In reality, it can be challenging to be in a calorie deficit diet, so it’s important to practice mindful eating. This means that you will have to cut portions and eat your normal meals by reducing the amount by twenty percent.
Controlling your portion sizes:
As mentioned before, the key to a happy heart is to lose weight (if you’re overweight). This means that you have to keep an eye on the amount of food you eat at each meal. You can start monitoring the amount of food you eat by using a small plate or bowl, consume large portions of vegetables and fruits (including foods that are rich in fiber as well).
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to consume saturated fats and processed foods, then you have to keep the concept of mindful eating and controlled portions in mind. This strategy will not only help your waistline, but your heart will thank you too.
Eat more veggies and fruits:
This cannot be stressed enough, eating vegetables and fruits is a sure way to keep your heart (along with other vital organs) healthy and in prime condition. Plant-based products, along with fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber; all these components together add up to a healthier heart.
Reduce unhealthy fats and simple carbs:
Trans-fats and saturated fats should be reduced in your daily diet because they contribute greatly to your blood cholesterol levels and can increase the risk of coronary diseases as well. If you keep binging on food that has high trans-fat ingredients, then you will build upon a plaque in your arteries which will eventually lead to a heart attack.
You can check on your fat intake by reading nutrition labels on food products, consuming low-fat substitutes; also, look out for phrases like “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list, and try to stay away from it.
Try to limit processed foods that may contain a lot of simple sugars, especially cut down on sodas and other carbonated beverages. Concentrate on fish and poultry that will give you healthy fats and proteins. Also, it’s important that you limit your simple carbohydrate intake because it will increase your blood sugar levels.
Consume whole-grain products and fresh vegetables, and if you want to have a snack, you can indulge in healthier snacks such as raw almonds and walnuts, which contain healthy fats and will keep you satiated for longer.
It doesn’t matter if you had years of unhealthy eating in the past; you can leave that life behind and start fresh. Once you know which food items are good for you, in the long run, then you will gravitate permanently towards a heart-healthy life.
Q 3: What’s the biggest misconception that people have about Heart Disease?
The biggest misconception that people have about heart disease is that when you get a heart attack, you will invariably feel a heaviness on your chest and you eventually lose consciousness. But that’s not true, there are many signs that lead to a heart attack, and the faster you pinpoint these symptoms, the faster is the treatment.
The signs of a heart attack include fatigue, unable to perform simple physical activities like walking, running out of breath easily, and sometimes the patient will experience some acid reflux as well.
Q 4: What are the symptoms of a heart attack I should watch out for?
As mentioned before, some of the symptoms you should watch for are restlessness, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, sweating more than normal, and the inability to move. Some of the primary symptoms you may experience include:
- A squeezing sensation in the chest
- Pressure and pain in your left arm
- Pain that is rapidly spreading through your chest and jaw
- Breaking into a cold sweat
Also, the symptoms mentioned above are what commonly appear in heart patients; sometimes, the symptoms vary, and they may not appear at all, this is usually called a silent heart attack. Hence it is essential to get preventive health checkups at regular intervals to diagnose your risk of cardiovascular disease accurately.
Q 5: How much can I work out without overexertion, if I have a heart condition?
If you have ever suffered from any heart disease, then you will understand how difficult it is to get back to a normal routine without risking your well-being again. So, it’s best that you find an activity that will help you maintain your health, without overexerting your body. If you’ve recently suffered a Heart attack or stroke, you should check in with a cardiac rehabilitation specialist who will suggest the right exercises for a healthy heart to help get your health back on track.
Some of the heart-healthy exercises are aerobics, yoga, brisk walks, swimming, jogging, cycling, and climbing an incline like stairs or a hill. You can practice these activities for 150 minutes a week; you can also try indulging in Yoga and Tai Chi because they will improve your flexibility and balance.
Engaging in constant physical activities that will help your heart pump blood efficiently, will not only make you feel energetic but build up your strength and resistance activities as well.
Q 6: Should I consult a Cardiologist preventively?
It’s best to add a visit to a cardiologist as part of your yearly health checkup even if you haven’t seen any symptoms of heart disease. This is especially the case if you have a family history of it and live a sedentary lifestyle. Your cardiologist can advise you on your current health condition and recommend any lifestyle changes (if necessary) to help prevent the onset of heart disease. This can also help you to diagnose any silent heart attacks that do not show any kind of external symptoms.
Dr. Auriom Kar, Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Barasat