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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Simple habits that will add more years to your heart

Simple habits that will add more years to your heart

October 31, 2018 09:00 IST

Starting at age 18, get your blood pressure checked regularly.
Control your weight and salt intake. Never reheat oils, Dr Sameer Pagad suggests.

How to keep your heart healthy

Photograph: Kind courtesy Lais Ribeiro/Instagram

Heart health is imperative for everyone at all ages.

Keeping one's weight in check and taking part in regular physical activities is important for a healthy heart.

It is equally critical that you eat healthy food.

Here's a heart-healthy regime you can follow:

  • Consume healthy, home-cooked food
  • Stay active with exercise
  • Maintain an ideal weight
  • Give up tobacco
  • Control your cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation (if you really want to or avoid it)
  • Manage stress

Take steps at the earliest to lower your risk for heart disease; the sooner the better.

Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are root causes for heart disease and heart attack. In case your cholesterol or blood pressure levels are high, you can take steps to lower them.

Get your cholesterol checked.

It’s essential to get your cholesterol checked once in four years. Some need to get it checked more often.

Get your blood pressure checked.

Starting at age 18, get your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure has no signs or symptom; it is a silent killer.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a state in which the heart becomes weak and the chambers get enlarged.

Thereby, the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body.

It can be caused by a number of medical problems. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a situation in which the heart muscle becomes thick.

There are four stages of heart failure (Stage A, B, C and D).

They range from 'high risk of developing heart failure' to 'advanced heart failure,' and provide treatment plans.

As the situation worsens, your heart muscle pumps less blood to the organs, and you move toward the next stage of heart failure.

Foods to help your heart

Whole grains and fibre

Indulge in more of whole grains and fibre-rich foods.

Recent research has shown that an increased whole grain intake helps in reducing the likeliness of death from heart diseases.

Soluble fibre helps reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar, promote bowel regularity and manage weight. Soluble fibre from oats and barley are effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

For breakfast choose a fibre-rich, whole-grain, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal like wheat/bran flakes, rolled oats, porridge and muesli. This can be topped-up with fresh fruits and nuts.

Instead of white rice have brown rice for lunch. Include chapatis made from whole wheat flour or a mishmash of millets like jowar, bajra, ragi and rajgira (amaranth).

Consume more of whole pulses and legumes like whole moong, chana, urad, rajma, etc.

Veggies and fruits

Have at least five to six servings of fresh vegetables and whole fruits every day. This provides fibre and is rich in phytochemicals, which are heart-friendly.

Replace white bread with wholegrain bread; regular pasta/noodles with whole grain pasta/noodles; make cheelas/pancakes from whole moong, or have mixed sprout bhel with veggies.

Snack with carrot sticks, cucumber slices; a mix of fibre-rich nuts like almonds, walnuts; sesame, flaxseed or roasted chana. Add soybeans to soups, stir-fry dishes with fresh veggies for dinner.

Go easy on oils

Fast foods that are deep-fried, foods prepared with full-fat dairy products, vanaspati, palm oil and hydrogenated fat, butter and ghee can increase bad cholesterol and chances of heart disease.

These should be consumed in limited quantities. Never reheat fats and oils. Go in for heart-friendly cooking methods such as grilling, broiling and baking instead of deep-frying.

Add good fats to your diet by eating at least 100 to 200 gm of grilled/steamed fish every week.

Choose oily fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon to get necessary omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are good for your heart.

Nuts

Munch on a handful of unsalted nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, etc.

While cooking use a combination of oils like groundnut or sesame or rice bran plus mustard or canola or soybean; sunflower plus mustard for a balanced fatty acid profile.

Control your salt intake

Added salt is the chief source of sodium in our diet. This is related to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart diseases and stroke. WHO recommends 5 gm salt per day for adults.

Add less salt when cooking. Gradually your taste buds will get used to food with less salt.

Flavour your food with fresh herbs and spices like basil, coriander, mint, parsley, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, lemon juice, etc.

Turn away from highly salted foods like salted nuts, pickles, chutneys and readymade salted snack foods such as chivda and bhel.

Instead, make them at home with least salt and oil. Use flavor enhancers like dry mango powder, cumin seeds and asafoetida.

Warning signs to watch out for:

Your age and family history also determines your risk for heart disease.

You are at higher risk if you are a woman over age 55 or a man over age 45 or one of your parents or siblings had heart disease before the age of 50 (women) or 60 (men).

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked suddenly.

A part of the heart may die if help doesn’t arrive swiftly.

Some common signs of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the middle or left side of the chest or a feeling of pressure / squeezing.
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper part of the body -- arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or above the navel
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing either while resting or being active
  • Feeling sick in the stomach or throwing up
  • A stomach ache or feeling like having a heartburn
  • Feeling unusually tired or light-headedness
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Not everyone who has a heart attack will have all the signs.

Don't ignore changes in how you feel.

Signs of a heart attack often come on all of a sudden. At times, they develop slowly -- hours, days, or even weeks before a heart attack.

Talk to your doctor if you if you face any of the above symptoms.

If you've had a heart attack in the past, it's important to know that symptoms of a new heart attack might be different from the earlier one -- it is best to speak to your doctor.

  The author Dr Sameer Pagad is interventional cardiologist at K J Somaiya Super Specialty Hospital.

Dr Sameer Pagad