September 27 is celebrated as World Heart Day. Over 17.2 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases, making these the leading cause of death worldwide. Yet 80 percent of premature deaths from heart diseases and stroke could be avoided by controlling the main risk factors, such as tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
Heart disease can be caused by a number of factors such as:
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. If you are obese, you smoke, or you have high blood cholesterol levels along with high blood pressure, your risk of heart disease or stroke greatly increases.
- High Blood Cholesterol. This is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Cholesterol, a fat-like substance carried in your blood, is found in all of your body's cells. Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs to form cell membranes and to make certain hormones.
- Diabetes. If you know that you have diabetes, you should already be under a doctor's care, because good control of blood sugar levels can reduce your risk.
- Obesity. Extra weight leads to an increase in total cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Obesity increases your chances of developing other risk factors for heart disease, especially high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.
- Smoking. Cigarette and tobacco-smoking increase your risk of lung cancer, and also greatly increases your risk of heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. Many Indians die each year of smoking-related illnesses. Many of these deaths are caused by the ill-effects of smoking on the heart and blood vessels.
- Physical Inactivity. People who are not active have a greater risk of heart attack than people who exercise regularly. Exercise burns calories, which helps to control cholesterol levels and diabetes and may lower blood pressure. Exercise also strengthens the heart muscles and makes the arteries more flexible.
Keep your heart healthy and active
Your heart is the way to your emotions and the pillar of your body. Dr Neeraj Dhingra, nutrition consultant, Pusa Institute advises a healthy lifestyle to keep your heart healthy and active:
Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease. Eat just enough calories to maintain optimum weight. Cutting down 500 calories a day will make you lose 2 kg a month.
1. Eat no more than two tablespoons of good oil every day. Include one teaspoon desi ghee (rich in MUFA) as well.
2. Avoid saturated fats. It is never too late to cut down on the following:
- Animal fats: buttercream, processed cheese, whole milk, red meat and shellfish.
- Hydrogenated fats also are known as trans fats found in margarine, baked food, biscuits, chips, French fries etc.
- Vegetable fats: coconut fats, palm oil, commercially baked foods such as cookies, crackers and buttered popcorn.
3. Reduce intake of cholesterol-rich foods like egg yolk, organ meats, whole milk, dairy products, red meat, shellfish.
4. Work fiber into your food; for the sake of fiber, your choice of food should be:
- Oats, whole grains, sprouts.
- Fruits- guava, oranges, pairs, pomegranate, berries.
- Vegetables: green leafy, broccoli, carrots etc.
- Dried peas, beans, tofu.
5. Flax seeds, methi seeds- these are also rich in heart-friendly omega 3 fatty acids 5. Watch out for carbs as well. Eating low glycemic foods (unrefined complex carbohydrates) helps in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Go in for whole grains sprouts, legumes, dry peas, oats, barley, bran, apples, other fruits and vegetables instead of white bread, burgers, noodles, pasta and rice.6).
6. Good nutrition- only 23-30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat out of which only 6-7 percent has to be taken as saturated fats.
- Less than 200 mg of cholesterol to be consumed per day.
- Limit sodium intake to 2 to 3 gms per day.
- Consume just enough calories to maintain a healthy weight.
7. Youngsters should inculcate healthy eating habits and stay away from fast foods like burgers, pizzas etc. as they are full of trans fats and processed carbohydrates. Just once a week they may be permitted to satisfy their taste buds.
Your heart is in danger if you face:
- Chest discomfort. This can be discomfort in the centre of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or it may go away and return. It can feel like a pain, pressure, squeezing or fullness.
- Discomfort or pain in other parts of your upper body, including one or both arms, your back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Nausea, light-headedness or a feeling of stomach indigestion (cramping).
- Breaking out in a cold sweat.
- Shortness of breath. This feeling often accompanies chest discomfort but can occur beforehand.