Heart is the most vital organ of the body and of paramount importance in efficient functioning of all other organs and the body’s proper functioning. And the truth is heart health or heart disease can’t be cured by medicines (though they may help you control it), it is your daily lifestyle and habits that play an important role in keeping your heart healthy. Some risk factors for heart disease like age, heart problem in family, etc. are not in your control, but others like weight management (being overweight), smoking, and unhealthy diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices is something in your control and things which you must change.
What Benefits of a heart-friendly lifestyle
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Lowers risk of diabetes
- Lowers the levels of bad cholesterol and blood fat (triglyceride)
- Lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke
What is a heart-friendly lifestyle?
Below are certain lifestyle pointers you need to keep in mind when working towards a healthy heart goal:
Smoking is the most harmful activity for you and the people close to you. It not just harms your lungs but also your entire body particularly your heart and blood vessels. Here is how:
- Smoking lowers the amount of oxygen and increases the levels of CO (carbon monoxide) in the bloodstream thus creating an urgent need for oxygen for your heart. When the heart is unable to get the required amount of oxygen, the heart is susceptible to a heart attack.
- Any form of smoking is harmful for the heart health, including second-hand smoke.
- Nicotine in the cigarettes causes the blood vessels to tighten thus leading to increased blood pressure and an increased workload for your heart.
Other benefits of quitting smoking:
- Lowers Blood pressure and improves blood flow
- Improves breathing & Oxygen levels in blood return to normal
- Reduces Carbon monoxide levels in blood and decreases coughing and shortness of breath decreases
Exercise for good heart health
Remaining inactive is the worst thing you can do if you have heart disease or are at risk of developing it, as it can lead to the following:
- Increased body weight
- Diabetes (a heart disease risk factor)
- High blood pressure
- Deterioration of heart condition
Regular physical activity also reduces your risk of heart related diseases. Physical activity of moderate intensity for 45 to 60 minutes on 5 days of the week is good for heart health.
For people with busy lifestyles that does not allow them a set time for exercise, the good news is that breaking up exercise sessions into three 10-minute workouts offer the same heart benefits as one long session.
Also, routine activities like taking the stairs, walking the dog, housekeeping chores, etc. all count towards the total. Small steps like walking to the market instead of taking the car or alighting from the bus a couple of stops behind increase your activity level. The key is to remain active throughout the day – increasing the frequency, intensity, and duration of the exercise programme can result in bigger benefits.
Eat a Balanced diet for a healthy heart
Healthy dietary habits like controlling the portion size & reading food labels carefully before eating or purchasing is helpful in maintaining a proper BMI. In terms of food choices, a heart-healthy diet should include foods that are lower in cholesterol, fat and sodium.
Foods to include in your diet are:
- Whole-grain foods (whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Eating more fruits and vegetables, especially those that are deeply coloured like spinach, carrots, berries, etc.
- Poultry, fish
- Low-fat dairy products
Foods to avoid in your diet are:
- Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol
- Sweets and added sugars, sweetened beverages
- Red meat
A healthy BMI
Extra body weight increases your risk of higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol and diabetes, all of which can lead to heart disease. Whether your current weight is linked to an increased risk of heart disease can be checked by your BMI- A standard indicator in determining if an adult individual is at a healthy weight or not. BMI is a mathematical formula that considers a person’s height and weight in determining obesity.
Manage your stress
Stress affects the heart and the body in the following way:
It causes emotions like anger that can trigger a heart attack
Your reaction mechanism in coping with stress (smoking, drinking excess alcohol, and overeating) can be dangerous for your heart.
Dealing with stress in an efficient and timely manner can protect you from a heart related problem.