The secret to a healthy heart lies in living a stress-free, well-balanced lifestyle combined with regular physical activity and a good night's sleep, suggests cardiologist Dr Talha Meeran.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD), chronic respiratory disorders, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases are among the leading causes of mortality, accounting for over 60% of all fatalities in India and around the world.
According to the World Health Organization, India is responsible for one-fifth of all fatalities globally, particularly among the younger population.
In fact, CVDs hit Indians a decade before the rest of the world.
For us Indians, causes of concern in CVD are early age of onset, rapid progression and high mortality rate.
If you want to keep your heart healthy and live longer, here are some red flags you need to be aware of:
1. Angina (chest discomfort/pain)
Chest pain is one of the most common warning signs of a heart attack.
You may feel discomfort, tightness, or pressure in your chest if you have a blocked artery or are suffering a heart attack.
According to some, it feels like an elephant is sitting on you.
Others describe it as a pinching or burning sensation.
Some patients have angina attacks before they have a heart attack, and they may continue to have them thereafter.
2. Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain
During a heart attack, some people experience these symptoms.
It's possible that they might vomit.
Women are more likely than men to report these type of symptoms.
Many foods, including spicy dishes, can cause indigestion.
Cutting down alcohol, cigarettes, citrus fruits, aspirin, and avoiding eating close to bedtime or late at night are all good ways to avoid indigestion.
3. Lack of exercise
Even if you don't have any other risk factors, not getting enough physical activity can also contribute to heart disease.
It can also increase the risk of other heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.
4. High levels of stress
Chronic stress occurs when your body is always stressed and in high gear for days or weeks at a time.
Stress causes the hormone cortisol to be released.
Long-term stress has been linked to an increase in blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure and these are some common risk factors for heart disease.
5. Diabetes or Prediabetes
People with diabetes are at risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, which also causes stroke in young adults.
High blood sugar due to diabetes can also damage your blood vessels leading to heart diseases.
Managing your blood sugar levels is crucial to reduce this risk.
6. Excessive alcohol consumption
Heavy drinking can also weaken the heart muscle, making it less efficient in pumping blood.
Cardiomyopathy is a condition that can lead to mortality, usually as a result of heart failure.
Alcohol is a calorie-dense beverage that can lead to weight gain and can be hazardous in the long run resulting in a persistent rise in blood pressure.
Hypertension is the medical term for persistently high blood pressure.
7. Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing stops and starts periodically throughout sleep, which can be dangerous.
Age and obesity are both risk factors. Men are more likely to have it.
When a person with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) tries to breathe, their upper airway becomes restricted or closed.
These attempted forceful inhalations might result in significant changes in chest cavity pressure. These repeated shifts in intrathoracic pressure might harm the heart over time.
Obesity is also called a silent heart attack.
Obese people require more blood to give oxygen and nutrients to their bodies, which causes blood pressure to rise.
To circulate this blood around, your body will need greater pressure.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attacks, which are unfortunately more common in obese people.
9. Congested lungs/Long lasting cough
When your heart is weak, fluid build up in the lungs.
Due to this, you may experience shortness of breath during an activity or have trouble breathing when you are lying flat in bed.
A dry, hacking cough or wheezing can also be caused by lung congestion.
Any returning circulation from the heart to the lungs can get clogged due to the heart's inability to adequately pump blood.
This can cause pulmonary congestion, which is why the condition is also known as 'congestive heart failure.'
It's also the main cause of persistent coughing.
A healthy heart can protect you against the difficulties that come with a variety of chronic illnesses.
While age has traditionally been a major risk factor for heart disease, the evolution of lifestyles has resulted in an increasing number of young people being diagnosed with heart disease.
It is critical to begin caring for the heart early in life by following these simple habits:
1. Get moving
Your heart is a muscle. And exercise, like any other muscle, strengthens it.
Determine your desired heart rate first. Then select an activity you love and can commit to for the long haul.
2. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is tough. But you know that it's important to quit, and one of the biggest reasons is that it's linked to heart disease.
3. Lose weight
It takes more than diet and exercise to lose weight. It's a personal adventure to discover what you enjoy and what works best for you.
4. Don't forget the chocolate
The good news is that both chocolate and red wine are ok for your heart.
The bad news is that it should only be done in moderation.
Antioxidants found in red wine and cocoa (a significant element in chocolate) have been demonstrated to boost good cholesterol, reduce bad cholesterol, and enhance blood coagulation.
5. Don't stress
An increase in blood pressure and a quicker heart rate are two of the more than 1,400 physiological reactions to stress.
If you don't manage your stress, it might spiral out of control, trapping you in a cycle of anxiety.
The secret to a healthy heart lies in living a stress-free, well-balanced lifestyle combined with regular physical activity and a good night's sleep.
Dr Talha Meeran is consultant cardiologist, advanced cardiac sciences and heart transplant at the HN Reliance Hospital, Mumbai.
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