A healthy heart is very important for overall good health. It works hard, continuously without breaks to keep us alive. So, we should do our part and return the favour. Taking good care of our heart has become even more important because our unhealthy lifestyle is making it weaker. According to the Global Burden of Disease, nearly a quarter (24.8 per cent) of all deaths in India is due to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
This makes CVD-risk prevention one of the important priorities among India’s sustainable development goals. In India, poverty, maternal malnutrition, and early life changes enhance an individual’s risk of CVDs.
High blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking are the top risk factors that lead to CVDs. Other medical conditions and harmful habits that can increase your chance of developing the disease are having diabetes, being overweight or obese, following a poor diet, neglecting to exercise and drinking alcohol in excess.
A healthy heart helps us to lead a better quality of life and allows us to function at our best. So here are few effective ways to improve and maintain heart health:
Eat less salt
A diet with high levels of salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of developing heart disease or a stroke. The maximum adult daily intake is not more than 6g of salt. Sodium is present in high amounts in most processed foods. Therefore, by limiting the amount of processed food you consume, you can eliminate excess sodium from your diet.
You can try other herbs and spices to add flavour to your dishes instead of adding salt. Try adding paprika, ground white or black pepper, lemon, vinegar, chives or mild chilli powder to add flavours without the negative effects of sodium.
Eat less sugar
Even though there’s no evidence that sugar itself damages the heart, but eating too much of it can lead to weight gain, which can raise your blood pressure and ultimately increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Reduce intake of saturate fat
Saturated fat, which is found in butter, ghee, margarine, fatty meats, dairy fats and processed foods such as pies, pastries and cakes may increase cholesterol levels which is a risk factor for heart problems.
Get enough sleep
You are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease if you are not getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough changes the way our body functions and can affect blood pressure. Too much sleep can also negatively impact heart health. Therefore, make sure you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
Eat fruits and Vegetables
Boost your intake of the mineral potassium by eating at least five portions of fruit and veggies every day. Potassium helps us to lower our blood pressure. Other nutrients in fruit and veggies such as vitamins, minerals and fibre also help to keep your heart healthy and lower your cholesterol.
Get good amount of omega-3 fatty acids
Oily fish such as pilchards, sardines, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve your cholesterol levels. Vegetarians and vegans can get their omega-3 fats intake from spinach, wheat germ, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soya and canola oil and pumpkin seeds.
Smoking is detrimental to heart health and is the cause of many diseases. Smokers are almost twice prone to heart attack as those who have never smoked. Smoking damages your arteries, reduces your blood oxygen levels and raises your blood pressure. By simply quitting smoking you’re saving your heart from inevitable complications.
High intake of alcohol can cause high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and damage your heart.
Three types of exercise are very important for a healthy heart: aerobic, resistance, and flexibility. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Divide the 150 minutes up any way you like (five 30-minute sessions, or divide the 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions). Vary the type of exercises that you perform every day to strengthen and train the heart in different ways. Get the minimum of 30 minutes a day of movement to get your heart pumping.
Being under too much stress can disturb your healthy lifestyle. It makes you smoke, not exercise enough and drink more alcohol than you should. Try to find ways to de-stress on a regular basis Take a yoga class give yourself 30 minutes of “me” time, or practice deep breathing (whatever helps make you feel calm will work, as long as you do it regularly). Perhaps you can start practicing mindfulness.