Boost your heart health

Keep the most vital organ of your body healthy with some diet and lifestyle changes, writes Dr Aziz Kothawala

Almonds, walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch of heart-healthy fats, protein and fibre.

A healthy human heart beats at about 70-80 beats per minute, which increases or decreases depending on various factors. The heart is the most vital organ of the body as it supplies blood to all the other organs of the body, therefore any decrease in the functioning of heart has a direct bearing on all the other organs of the body. Here’s how you can take care of your heart:

• Start young: Parents, it’s important to encourage your children to take care of their heart at an early age. Inculcate good habits in them such as eating smart, getting plenty of fresh air, being physically active, and more. Regularly monitor cardiovascular indicators such as BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Ensure that your children maintain a healthy weight and that they avoid the intake of foods that are high in fats, cholesterol and sugar. Encourage your children to actively take part in sports like cricket, football and swimming.

• Laugh out loud: Research has proven that laughter is good for the heart and help protect against cardiac arrests. According to American Heart Association, laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD), also known as ‘good cholesterol’.

• Avoid tobacco: Smoking is one of the major reasons for heart disease. Along with unhealthy blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking increase your chances of heart disease. Smoking even by healthy individuals without any other risk factors increases the risk of developing heart diseases.

• Eat healthy: Eating healthy is one of the easiest ways to keep your heart healthy. Indulge in an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasises on a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. One must also limit saturated fat, trans-fats, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you prefer to eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available.

• Sidestep salt: According to a report published by New England Journal of Medicine, if average salt intake is reduced to just half a teaspoon a day it would significantly cut down the number of people who develop coronary heart diseases every year. The salt content tends to be high in processed foods along with the food prepared in restaurants. So, think twice before filling upon your favourite fast-food fix.

• Go nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch of heart-healthy fats, protein and fibre. Including them in your diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

• Make time for breakfast: The first meal of the day is an important one. Eating a nutritious breakfast every day can help you maintain a healthy diet and weight.

• Stretch it out: Yoga can help you improve your balance, flexibility and strength. It can help you relax and relieve stress. As if that’s not enough, yoga also has potential to improve heart health. According to a research published in Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, yoga demonstrates potential to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

• Move it, move it, move it: No matter how much you weigh, sitting for long periods of time could shorten your lifespan, warn the researchers in Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Heart Association. Couch potato and desk jockey lifestyles seem to have an unhealthy effect on blood fats and blood sugar. If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around.

• Know your numbers: Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in check is important for good heart health. Learn the optimal levels for your sex and age group. Take steps to reach and maintain those levels. And remember to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor.

• Find your happy place: A sunny outlook may be good for your heart, as well as your mood. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, chronic stress, anxiety and anger can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Maintaining a positive outlook on life may help you heal faster. Last but not the least, try to forget and forgive for the sake of your heart.

(The author is a cardiologist, Saifee Hospital)

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