How to work towards a healthy heart

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of death in the developed world.

In the past, CAD was thought to be a simple process of artery narrowing, eventually resulting in complete vessel block and heart attack (myocardial infarction, MI).

In recent years it has been understood that plaque ruptures release chemicals that increase the likelihood of complete arterial occlusion.

(Atherosclerotic plaques are unhealthy fat rich thickening on the inside of arterial walls). Transient occlusion reduces blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle and causes pain, while more permanent occlusion leads to heart attacks (MI).


The classic symptoms are chest pain (angina).

Pain is worse with exertion (eg. Walking, climbing staircase) and often follows a meal.

A sensation of discomfort or constriction in the chest, relieved by rest is also common. Pain may also be felt in the left shoulder, arms, neck and back.

It could be mistaken for indigestion or 'gastritis'. Sharp or stabbing pains are usually not from the heart.

Eat better

Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Include at least 4 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, fibre – rich whole grains daily, limit salt to ¼ table spoon per day.
Avoid bakery products and sweetened drinks.

Fibre rich whole grains are brown and red rice, whole wheat and ragi.

Other carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, potatoes raise blood sugar quickly and make you overeat and therefore better limited.

Control blood pressure

One in three adults have high blood pressure, yet many do not know because hypertension has no obvious symptoms.

Eat a heart – healthy diet, exercise regularly, lose weight, limit salt and alcohol. You may need medicines prescribed by your doctor.

Lose weight

Losing is winning. Too much fat particularly around the trunk increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

The trick is to increase physical activity each week while restricting calories. Acceptance of the problem of overweight and change of mindset and lifestyle change would be the crucial point.

Reduce blood sugar

Diabetes exponentially increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. End organ damage of variable extend (heart and kidneys) is usually manifest in long standing diabetics.

South Asians, particularly south Indians have a high incidence of diabetes and diabetes increases the risk of heart disease up to four times.

Stop smoking

One in five deaths is caused by smoking. Quitting smoking can prevent heart disease, lung disease and cancer.

What once starts as curiosity ends up in heart disease or cancer. Cessation of smoking reduces the risk of developing heart disease to that of non smokers in a few years.

Expert tips

Eat right, control body weight, exercise and take medicines as advised. Have regular heart checks, at least once a year after the age 40.

Individuals with multiple risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight, smokers, strong family history may start to have regular heart checks after age 30 itself.

It is not uncommon to see patients as young as 25 or 30 having major heart attacks and needing multiple bypasses.

Every now and then we see the elderly father getting his young son in his 30s or 40s for bypass surgery.

This is a fact of today.

Change today or you will never change.

Fix up an appointment with your heart specialist.

Managing your health is a lifelong process. At least one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease.

The good news is more than 70 per cent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented.

Physical activities

Activity is good medicine.

Incorporate more and more activity in daily life – walk to the shop, take the stairs.

20 – 30 minute brisk walk everyday helps you gain strength and stamina, lowers blood pressure, keeps body weight under control and increases the good cholesterol (HDL).

Research has shown that every hour of brisk walk may add two hours to life expectancy in some adults.

Exercise also better regulates blood sugar, prevents bone loss and reduces risk of cancer.

Control cholesterol

While cholesterol isn't exactly very bad, it actually is important for health. But too much cholesterol in blood is bad. There are 2 types – the good (HDL) and the bad (LDL).

High levels of LDL cholesterol can block arteries and cause heart attacks.

You can balance the two cholesterol types with regular exercise, limiting saturated fat and cholesterol by avoiding full – fat dairy and animal products.

Include healthier fats such as vegetable oils. Canola and Olive oils lower LDL and are good.

Butter and palm oil raise LDL. Some may also need cholesterol lowering medications.   

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)