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In your 20s? Beat heart trouble now

Rohini Cardoso e Diniz | May 02, 2006

The last 10 years have seen a significant rise in the incidence of heart disease among people in the 30 to 40 age group.

Although, in many cases, there is a strong hereditary basis, several environmental factors also play a significant role in the development of heart disease.

Of these, top on the list are faulty dietary habits and lack of exercise when one is in the 20-30 age group.

So, those of you who are in your 20s, follow these tips and stay healthy.

i. Maintain ideal body weight

One of the most important tips for a healthy heart is to maintain your ideal body weight in proportion to your height.

This is determined by a simple formula known as Broca's Index (ie height in centimetres minus 100). Compare the result obtained with your present body weight. For instance if your height is 160 cm, then your ideal body weight must be 60 kg.

If you need to lose weight, do so with appropriate calorie restriction (consult a dietician) combined with exercise. Weight reduction should be gradual; not more than half to one kilogram per week.

ii. Avoid too much of salt in your food

Salt or sodium chloride gives a distinct flavour to food. However, sodium, which keeps the body fluids in balance, is already widely distributed in natural foods. Hence, salt is not an essential food item.

As the kidneys conserve sodium, excess salt from the diet is likely to precipitate high blood pressure, which is a risk factor when it comes to developing heart disease. An average adult needs only 1 to 1 ½ tsp of salt per day.

Processed foods account for a high proportion of dietary sodium; salt is found in many ingredients used in food processing such as baking powder, baking soda, etc. Some tips for eating less salt include:

~ Taste the food first instead of automatically adding more salt before tasting.

~ Limit your intake of ketchup, processed cheese, butter, pickles, papads, dried salted fish, canned fish, sauces, cold meats such as ham, bacon, salami, etc, salted biscuits, canned vegetables, salted nuts, readymade soup powders, soup cubes, etc.

~ Use natural condiments such as ginger, garlic, vinegar, onion, lemon juice, tamarind, kokum, etc, for flavouring instead of salt.

iii. Eat out less

Studies have shown that when one eats in restaurants there is a tendency to eat fewer vegetables and fruits and more fried foods and alcoholic or carbonated beverages.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, near Boston, have found that people who eat regularly at restaurants are twice as likely to gain weight. Foods eaten away from home tend to be higher in calories and fat and lower in fibre.

So, it is best to cut down on the frequency of eating out.  

iv. Eat natural foods

~ Opt for whole grain cereals instead of refined ones. Limit consumption of white bread, biscuits and noodles.

Have whole wheat bread, chapattis, multigrain bread, high fibre biscuits and whole wheat or atta noodles instead.

~ Eat cake and pastries sparingly.

~ If you are suffering from high blood cholesterol levels, have oats, a rich source of soluble fibre that has a cholesterol lowering effect. Besides eating oats in porridge form, there are other appetising ways by which you can add oats to your daily diet.

Oats are a good substitute for rava or breadcrumbs for coating cutlets or fish. It can be used instead of macaroni in soups and can be used to make biscuits and cookies.

~ Have sprouted pulses twice a week, as they are brimming with protective nutrients that have many benefits on health.

~Also try and incorporate soya products into your diet instead of red meats as they contain compounds called isoflavones that help lower blood cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

~ Boost your intake of fruits and vegetables, as they are natural capsules of vitamins and minerals offering protection against heart disease.

~Eat plenty of fresh, raw fruits, salads and lightly steamed vegetables. Remember to start your meals with a salad and snack on fruits in between meals.

~ Non-vegetarian lovers beware: All animal foods, except fish, contain saturated fats; these increase the levels of blood cholesterol, thereby increasing your risk of developing heart disease.

Fish contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which reduces the levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and platelet aggregation, all of which may lower the incidence of heart disease.

Therefore instead of eating red meat or poultry, non-vegetarians should make it a habit of including 100-200 grams of fish at least twice a week as a preventive dietary approach towards heart disease.

~ Vegetarians do not despair; you can derive omega-3 fats from foods like wheat, bajra, urad, bengal gram (chana), cowpea (chawli or lobia), rajma, soyabean, methi seeds, mustard seeds and flax seeds (alisi).

~ Consume skim milk and products made from them instead of whole milk.

~ Individuals with heart problems and those with high cholesterol levels should not eat more than two eggs per week.

~ Also avoid minced meat as the butcher finds it more profitable to sell this without removing the fat surrounding the fleshy portion.

v. Clean up the oily mess

~ Reduce your total fat intake. Incorporate small amounts of nuts such as groundnuts, almonds, walnuts and coconut as garnish in cooked dishes to reduce the amount of oil you need in cooking.

If you are going to add coconut into your vegetables, season the onion with a little water, then add the cleaned and chopped vegetables, cover and cook the vegetable in its own steam. When almost done add freshly grated coconut, mix well and remove form the fire.

~ The fat content of your diet can be reduced by using very little oil for cooking and using cooking methods such as steaming, baking, poaching, grilling or stewing instead. If you are frying something, use non-stick cookware.

~ Remove all visible fat from meat and skin of chicken before cooking. Remove fat from meat of chicken stocks, soups and stews by refrigerating them for a few hours and then removing the fat layer that has formed on top.

~ Butter and ghee should be avoided as they contain both cholesterol as well as saturated fat. Green chutney made from coriander, curry leaves or mint, along with small amounts of coconut or groundnut, can be consumed instead. 

~ Cut down on all organ meats (brain, liver, gizzard etc), burgers, puffs (pattices), ice-creams, pizzas, biryani and fried snacks -- all major contributors of invisible fats.

~ Use vegetable oils in moderation for cooking. The monthly oil consumption for a family of five people should not exceed one litre.


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Number of User Comments: 3

Sub: heart problems

I am aged about 44 years old. Recently I have been diagnosed with low cholestrol level after carrying out lipid profile test by my doctor. ...

Posted by shreyas mishra

Sub: heart problems

I am aged about 44 years old. Recently I have been diagnosed with low cholestrol level after carrying out lipid profile test by my doctor. ...

Posted by shreyas mishra

Sub: Heart Care

Take care with this message

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