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Here’s everything you need to know about your heart and how you can add a layer of health to it
Food & Health  
timesofindia.indiatimes

 
The last two decades brought about a significant shift in our life and lifestyles. As digital technologies became a part of our everyday routine and purchasing power increased, convenience became the operative word, allowing us to accomplish tasks in a snap of time. However, this ‘one-touch’ and ‘instant gratification lifestyle also seems to have weighed heavily on our health. It has introduced us to several modern-day stressors like high anxiety levels, improper diet, lack of quality sleep, physical inactivity, obesity, work-life imbalance, and smoking/alcohol intake, among many others. 

 

In India, lifestyle diseases are among the biggest killers, with new official data confirming worrying increases in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
 
In fact, you would be surprised to know that India is on the verge of becoming the heart disease capital of the world. As per projections, there are at least 8-10 million patients with heart disease in India*. Mortality rates in heart failure patients post a year of diagnosis is as high as 23%. Despite path-breaking research in cardiovascular disease, heart failure patients in India are approximately ten years younger than patients in the United States or Europe. These staggering revelations are enough to make us wonder if we are paying enough attention to our heart and relook our lifestyle choices that might increase our risk of developing heart disease.
 
One of the biggest factors that make heart disease a menace is the fact that its symptoms are very subtle, and can easily be ignored and confused for some other disease. This is why it is important for us to be wary of warning signs like sudden weight gain, excessive swelling in the feet or ankles, shortness of breath (not related to exercise), discomfort or troubledd breathing when lying flat or waking up short of breath, coughing or wheezing, loss of appetite, and fatigue among others. While a single symptom may not look like a big issue, it is important for people to keep an eye on the pattern and frequency of these signs. While early diagnosis and lifestyle changes can make heart disease manageable, it is always better to follow a heart-healthy routine to keep them completely at bay.
 
Considering the interplay of several factors on our heart’s functioning, it is very important to understand how we may be at risk. The more risk factors we have and the greater the degree of each risk factor, the higher is the probability of developing heart disease. Let’s take a look at some of them.
 
Hereditary
 
Many of us don’t know that people with a family history of heart disease are more prone to face heart-related issues than others. Medically referred to as Inherited Heart Condition, this occurs when there is a fault (or mutation) in one or more of our genes that we have inherited from our parents. If one of our parents were born with a faulty gene that can lead to a heart condition, there is a huge chance that we might pass it to our children. Added to this, it is also likely that people with a family history of heart disease share a common lifestyle that may increase their risk and further augment the genetically inherited issues. Thus, if your parents or anyone in your closest family circle has battled heart disease, it is pertinent that you are strictly avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes, getting proper exercise, and eating a balanced diet.
 
The hereditary risk associated with heart disease gets further clear if we are to look at Indian cricket administrator, commentator and former national cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly’s case. Earlier this year in January, he suffered a mild heart attack and had to undergo an immediate primary angioplasty to clear a blocked coronary artery. This incident shocked a lot of us because a fit sportsperson like Ganguly getting a heart attack was not expected. And it was only later, when he spoke about the issue that we learnt that his genes played a major role in triggering his heart condition. He says, “
 
You don't expect a fairly young and fit person like me to have a heart-related ailment. But here's the thing, there are just too many factors that can affect our heart's health. One of them could be family history of heart ailments, as it was in my case."
 
He further asserted how the episode was a clarion call to lead a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, follow an antioxidant-rich diet, get adequate rest and undergo regular health checkups. Considering we cannot do anything about the genetic risk associated with heart disease, it is imperative to observe, treat, and control any other lifestyle risks that we might be exposed to, and that includes our diet. Choosing the right oil for cooking essential for your heart health. Foods rich in heart-healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, and vegetable oils help reduce harmful cholesterol levels (low-density lipoprotein - LDL) in the blood. Your choice of oil is a vital step towards ensuring that you continue to have a healthy heart.
 
Physical inactivity
 
 
One of the clearest risk factors for cardiovascular disease is lack of exercise and inadequate physical activity. Owing to modern day sedentary habits, heart disease has become a silent killer across the world. An inactive lifestyle increases the likelihood of developing several heart disease risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, etc. Even for people who do not have other risk factors, lack of exercise can take a significant toll on heart health. A simple act of exercise for an hour daily can melt away stress, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your heart muscle and help you maintain a healthy weight.
 
Stress
 
Modern life requires us to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. With too many things to manage, we are often stressed out and do not find enough time to relax and unwind. While it might not look like it’s affecting your health on an everyday basis, stress is one of the biggest risk points for heart disease. Increased levels of stress leads to inflammation in the body, which in turn is related to conditions that deteriorate heart health- like high blood pressure, low ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, poor blood flow to the heart muscle, and even increased risk of blood clotting that can lead to stroke. Not just this, stress can also affect you in several other indirect ways. A highly stressed individual may sleep poorly, not exercise enough, make bad dietary choices and overeat, or engage in excessive smoking and drinking. If we closely analyse, all of these habits put you at a greater risk of heart disease.
 

 

Diabetes
 
Diabetes, another modern day lifestyle disease, is a big factor that adds to your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and international statistics reveal for itself. It is estimated that at least 68% of people with diabetes over 65 years of age die of some form of heart disease. Among that same group, 16% die of stroke. High blood glucose damages the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. So, if you have diabetes for a substantial period of time, your chances of developing heart disease is also more. In fact, people with diabetes also tend to develop heart disease at a younger age. If you are someone with diabetes, it is particularly important that you watch out on other risk factors and lead a life that is active and healthy. It is also very important to maintain a healthy body weight.
 
Cholesterol
 
While the body needs cholesterol to stay healthy, too much of it often leads to heart disease. When there is excess cholesterol in the blood, it sticks to the walls of the arteries, leading to an ailment called atherosclerosis, which is a form of heart disease. This goes on to narrow one’s arteries, leading to slow blood flow to the heart muscle. Cholesterol levels also vary depending on one’s age, sex, heredity and diet. In order to keep heart disease in check, people with high levels of bad (non-HDL) cholesterol should follow a clean diet and also consume foods rich in good (HDL) cholesterol. This will keep that bad cholesterol in check and also help to flush it out of the body. Picking the right cooking oil can be an excellent place to start.
 
While these are some of the primary factors that add to your risk of developing heart disease, there are several other lifestyle factors that can affect you in the longer run. Here are some additional steps that you can take to shield yourself:
 
Quit smoking and drinking,
 
Opt for regular health checkups and consult your doctor if you observe even the subtlest sign of heart disease,
 
Maintain an active lifestyle and exercise for 30-60 minutes every day,
 
Get at least 8 hours of sleep every day and follow a healthy diet,
 
Meditate, journal, or seek therapy when you are stressed,
 
If heart disease runs in the family, start eating heart-healthy foods from a young age and,
 
Watch your weight and maintain a healthy body mass index.
 
With a smart plan in hand, it is possible to keep heart ailments at bay. This is why it is important to begin early in life. The best step forward is to follow a lifestyle that is heart-healthy. You can start off by making an assessment of your risk factors and charting out a list of positive habits that can help you make the best health choices.
 
 
 

 
 


 
 


 
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