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Health: 10 ways to a healthy heart

A healthy heart is the key to long life. We present some measures that you can take to ensure this...

1. Eat Mediterranean-type food: A high fat Mediterranean-type diet, which includes omega-3 fatty acid, olive oil and nuts, is good for heart and overall health, say experts including an Indian-origin doctor. According to the researchers, daily consumption of a sugary drink (150 calories) is associated with a significantly increased risk of type-2 diabetes whereas daily consumption of a handful of nuts or four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (around 500 calories) is associated with a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

2. Refrain from leading a sedentary lifestyle: Sitting for long hours everyday is associated with increased coronary artery calcification that can increase the risk of a heart attack, new research conducted by an American institute says. Analysing heart scans and physical activity records of more than 2,000 adults, they found each hour of sedentary time per day on average was associated with a 14 percent increase in coronary artery calcification burden. Coronary artery calcification, measured through a non-invasive CT heart scan, indicates the amount of calcium contained in plaques within the heart's arteries. This study offered a unique perspective on the effects of sedentary behaviour because it links sitting with an early marker for heart disease risk.

World Heart Day

3. Be positive: Those who have an upbeat outlook on life have significantly better cardiovascular health than that of the pessimists. According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, USA, optimism boosts overall health but its positive impact on the heart is even greater. Participants' cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use. They also completed surveys that assessed their mental health, levels of optimism and physical health. People who were the most optimistic were twice as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health, and 55 percent more likely to have a total health score in the intermediate range, the researchers found.

4. Eat sesame seeds to be 'hale and hearty': The rich seed contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that may help control harmful cholesterol. Toasting amplifies flavour and adds a nice crunch to salads.

5. Gorging on dark chocolate is a good thing: Packed with flavanols, dark chocolate keeps the blood pressure in control and averts clotting of blood. Besides this, it also serves as an antioxidant that prevents the pile-up of unhealthy cholesterol. Dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa content has minimum sugar levels, making it an ideal food choice to prevent cardiovascular disease.

6. Get a good night's sleep: When it comes to health of your heart, a bad night's sleep could be as bad as smoking. Researchers have found that sleep disturbances may double the risk of heart attack and stroke in men. The research was part of the WHO programme "MONICA" (multinational monitoring of trends and determinants in cardiovascular disease) and the "MONICA-psychosocial" sub study, which included a representative sample of 657 men aged 25 to 64 years with no history of heart attack, stroke or diabetes in Novosibirsk, Russia. During the study period, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of participants who had a heart attack also had a sleeping disorder. Men with a sleeping disorder had a risk of myocardial infarction that was two to 2.6 times higher and a stroke risk that was 1.5 to four times higher than those without a sleeping disorder between five and 14 years of follow up.

7. It's never too late to stop smoking: Irregardless of age, you can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke within the first five years, say German researchers. After a person quits smoking, this risk continues to decrease. On an average, the risk for former smokers is only 1.3 times that of people who have never smoked in their lives. The age of smokers who die from cardiovascular disease is, on average, five-and-half years younger than people who have never smoked in their lives. By contrast, the age for former smokers drops to just over two years younger than life-long non-smokers.

8. The Vitamin D factor: A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Turku Finland suggests that
Low levels of vitamin D in childhood were associated with subclinical atherosclerosis, which correlates with cardiovascular risk factors, and predicts cardiovascular events. The study examined the relationship between low childhood vitamin D levels and adult increased carotid intima-thickness (IMT), a marker of structural atherosclerosis. The researchers analysed 2,148 participants aged three-18 years at baseline, who were re-examined at age 30-45 years. Participants with low levels of vitamin D in childhood had a significantly higher prevalence of high-risk IMT as adults, the findings showed.

9. Express gratitude: Showing gratitude towards people, appreciating their good work and having a thankful outlook towards life can result in an improved mental and physical health in patients with asymptomatic heart failure, a new research shows. The study conducted at the University of California, San Diego, involved 186 men and women who had been diagnosed with asymptomatic (Stage B) heart failure for at least three months. Stage B consists of patients who have developed structural heart disease but do not show symptoms of heart failure. Using standard psychological tests, the researchers obtained scores for gratitude and spiritual well-being. They then compared those scores with the patients' scores for depressive symptom severity, sleep quality, fatigue, self-efficacy (belief in one's ability to deal with a situation) and inflammatory markers and found higher gratitude scores were associated with better mood, higher quality sleep, more self-efficacy and less inflammation.

10. Have cheese for super heart health: Do you know why the French have low cardiovascular diseases despite having a diet high in saturated fats? It is not because of wine or their lifestyle but another French staple: Cheese and its metabolism. Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark have revealed that those who consumed cheese had higher fecal levels of butyrate -- a compound produced by gut bacteria. Elevated butyrate levels are linked to a reduction in cholesterol.

What is World Hearty Day?
World Heart Day takes place on 29 September every year and is a chance for people across the globe to take part in the world's biggest intervention against cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

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