Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

30 Days 30 Ways to a Healthy Heart

Someone in the India has a heart attack almost every two minutes! One in three of those people die within 24 hours. To put a handle on increasing heart attack risks, this year on the World Heart Day, Guardian Health Chronicle sets a plan. Three experts, Dr KK Aggarwal Director Cardiologist, Moolchand Medcity, Geetu Amarnani, Nutrition Counsellor, Nutritional Management of Hospital and Diet Training, and Dr Arti Anand Clinical Psychologist, Ganga Ram Hospital, brings to you 30 days – 30 ways to a healthy heart. Read to retreat your heart, today, tomorrow and always.

You are what you eat

 An apple a day really can keep the doctor away — and so can pears, bananas, cauliflower and mushrooms. According to a new study published in the medical journal Stroke, consuming fruits and vegetables with white flesh can lower your risk of stroke by 52 percent. Since one apple is about 120 grams, eating one a day can bring your risk down significantly.

Say “yes” to dark chocolate, red wine and strawberries. Probably you know these as aphrodisiacs, but they also contain antioxidants that make them perfect for protecting your heart.

Drink an 8-ounce  of water daily. A study from Loma Linda University in California found that women who drank more than five glasses of water a day were half as likely to die from a heart attack as those who drank less than two. Reason is water works best when it comes to improving blood flow.

Eat fish. Carnosine, an amino acid found in fish is essential for healthy-heart function and may help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. “Carnosine can prevent sympathetic nervous system activity that causes hypertension, and its antioxidant properties protect heart muscle directly against toxins that promote serious risks to heart tissue.” To reap the heart-healthy benefits of carnosine, it’s good to consume cold water fish at least once a week.

Have a power breakfast. The heart-healthy way is to start with a heavy breakfast. Go for bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with flax seeds or cornflakes with milk.

Reduce your total fat intake, especially saturated fat and trans fats, as these lead to increased cholesterol and are therefore bad for your heart. Replace foods that are high in saturated fat such as butter, hard cheese, fatty meat, biscuits, cakes, cream with low-fat or fat-free ones olive oil, nuts and green veggies.

Go easy on the salt as it can cause high blood pressure, which is linked to heart disease. The daily recommendation for adults is less than six grams, which is about one teaspoon. To reduce the amount of salt, don’t add salt at the dinner table and stop consuming processed food such as bread, cheese, chips and biscuits.

Steer clear of the ‘3 S’s. To help lower your weight and heart disease risk, recommends experts staying away from the three S’s: Sugar, starch and saturated fat. Cut out empty calories from processed foods, sweets, soda and desserts and focus on adding high-quality protein such as fish, beans, nuts and unlimited fruits and vegetables.

Get your calcium naturally; as many researches show that taking calcium supplements (especially without vitamin D) can increase the risk of heart disease by hardening the arteries. Fortify your diet with calcium-rich foods, including dairy products, salmon, tofu and almonds.

Kick that butt. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death, killing more people than accidents, HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, etc. Even if you only light up occasionally, consider this: Every drag of a cigarette causes your arteries to spasm slightly, and an arterial spasm could trigger a heart attack.

Pay attention to your lifestyle

Get Moving. According to the American Heart Association, regular physical activity helps prevent the development of coronary artery disease and helps prevent risk factors including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and obesity. Aim for 30 minutes of uninterrupted moderate or intense exercise daily, or a total of 150 minutes per week.

Meditate for 15-20 minutes twice a day, to center your heart and mind. Try this simple meditation to get started: Find a quiet place where you can sit alone for a few minutes. Close your eyes, slowly inhale, and then exhale. Repeat several times until your breathing is at a slow, steady pace. Then on your exhale say “I am calm, centered, and balanced,” or “I live life to the fullest”. Repeat for 15 minutes to finish feeling relaxed, centered and calmer.

Never stretch your urge to ‘loo’. Research at Taiwan University found that a full bladder causes your heart to beat faster and puts added stress on coronary arteries, triggering them to contract, which could lead to a heart attack in people who are vulnerable.

Practice happiness A 2009 study found that happier and optimist people are less likely to develop heart disease. Happiness is a skill that can be learned. To improve your level of happiness you need to learn to apply your values to develop a meaningful life and practice appreciation for what happens in your life.

Listen to some upbeat tunes as listening to joyful music can cause blood vessels to dilate and improve blood flow to the heart, say researchers at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine. It appears that the positive emotions that uplifting music creates have a direct, and healthy, effect on blood vessel function. “Music, in addition to laugher, is known to combat internal stress. So break up your day with music as often as possible for better heart health.

Be sure to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Recent research published in the European Heart Journal revealed that sleeping less than 6 hours at night on a consistent basis increases your risk for developing heart disease by 48 percent, and a lack of sleep causes hormonal imbalances that increase risk.

Stop working 24×7. A recent British study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that working more than 10 hours a day could increase your risk of heart attack or disease by more than 60 percent. Though it’s hard to tell anyone to work less during present economic downturn, it is important to develop a work-life balance. If you must work long hours, try maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regularly monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to reduce your overall risk.

Socialize A recent UCLA study found that older adults who are lonely are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who regularly spend time with friends or loved ones. Make a point to schedule regular dates with your spouse, invite friends over for dinner or visit family members often to keep your heart healthy, especially as you age.

Get organized. Operating in a disorganized environment whether at home or at work could be adding to your daily stress level, which is bad for your heart. Start organizing your life in small steps, recommends Dr Arti Anand. Tackle a space that you use such as your desk at work, begin streamlining paperwork, cleaning out drawers and organizing files to help your day flow more smoothly and reduce your stress level.

Stay regular. Never miss to follow your routine. As staying regular with all above practices would only help in longevity.

Adopt a pet. Numerous studies have shown that pet owners had lower risk of heart attacks than non-pet owners. Caring for a pet has calming results as it gives you added exercise that come from playing with your furry friend, which in turn helps prevent depression, speed recovery and boosts your immune system. Not a pet owner yet? Hurry to your local shelter to find a loving companion.

 Stay regular with health checkups

Check your varicose veins as it may signal a circulation problem that can put you at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A blood clot that forms in a vein deep within the body (usually the leg), can break free and cause a serious, and often fatal, blockage in the lungs. DVT also has potentially deadly heart-health effects, adds Dr Kapoor. If you have varicose veins, don’t just try to hide them — be sure to have them checked out to ensure your legs (and your heart) stay healthy.

Get a ‘VAP with your PAP’. Heart attack risk is on the rise for women over 30 and if you are one of the estimated 5 million women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), your risk is even higher. So getting a Vertical Auto Profile (VAP), a test that measures your LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol becomes must to prevent heart disease. The best way to remember to make the appointment is to schedule your VAP when you schedule a PAP test.

Brush up on your oral health. Some research suggests that gum disease may be a more serious risk factor for heart disease than high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, gender and age. How exactly are your gums connected to your heart? “Bacteria present in infected gums can come loose and move throughout the body. And, if bacteria reach the arteries, they can irritate them in the same way that they irritate gum tissue, which could cause arterial plaque to accumulate, causing hardening of the arteries and decreased or blocked blood flow, all of which can cause a heart attack. Arterial plaque can come loose and travel to other parts of the body, and if a blockage occurs in the brain, it can cause a stroke.

 Check your neck. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients with even minimal plaque in the neck arteries (carotid artery which supply the blood to the brain) were noted to have doubled the risk of heart disease. So plan a regular ultrasound of the carotid artery to scan for plaque named Atherosclerosis. If you have plague in one artery the chances are that you have it in all of your arteries.

Forget about the scale, measure your waistline instead. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic found that the body mass index (BMI) was a poor predictor of heart disease, while the stomach to hip ratio was a very powerful predictor — even in people with “normal” weight. The fat stored in the belly area, also known as visceral fat, lies deep in the abdominal cavity and has been linked to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is particularly bad for heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should aim to stay at or under 35 inches, men 40 inches.

 Does your spouse suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED)? Pay attention! According to research published in the British Medical Journal, ED can signal a heart attack two to three years ahead of time. If ED is a frequent and regular occurrence, it may be time to talk with your doctor about additional screenings for the early detection of heart disease.

Stay Away from BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that is found in everything from canned goods, plastic containers and water bottles, may increase your risk of heart disease. You can reduce your exposure by using “BPA free” plastics, limiting your canned food intake and using porcelain, glass or stainless steel food and beverage containers whenever possible.

 Hereditary factors account for up to 50 percent of heart disease cases, so family history really matters — especially with siblings as we get older. If someone in your immediate family develops heart disease, it’s time to schedule a doctor’s appointment for yourself. Early detection with regular blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes screenings can help reduce your risk of developing an inherited disease.

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Category: Heart Health
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