World Heart Day: 10 tips for a rock-solid heart

Sep 30, 2014, 07:34 IST | The Guide Team

Your lifestyle choices may be affecting your heart's health in more ways than you can imagine. With World Heart Day being observed yesterday, the guide has curated set of useful activities to help your bring back to shape

1. Eat more fruit and vegetables
Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.


2. Be physically active. Exercise daily
It can build endurance, control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, aid in weight control and reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Even 30 minutes of brisk activity a day can lower blood pressure. Lack of exercise increases the risk by 150%.

3. Eat healthy foods
Avoid foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Use less salt and avoid processed foods. Try to limit your salt intake to less than five grams per day (about one teaspoon). Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure; excessive fat can lead to clogged arteries; and low fruit and vegetable intake accounts for about 20% of heart disease and strokes worldwide.

4. Quit smoking
Smokers’ risk of developing coronary heart disease is 2-4 times than that of non-smokers. The risk is high also among non-smokers who are exposed to passive smoke.  If you kick the butt now, the risk will be halved within a year, and will return to a normal level within 15 years.

5.  Manage your weight
Weight loss along with lowered salt intake, leads to lowered blood pressure. But we are not suggesting that you immediately opt for a strict weight-loss regime. Instead, you may want to increase physical activity and follow step no 3.

6. Avoid excess alcohol
The best advice one could give is to stop drinking.  But if you still want to, restrict your alcohol intake to one or two drinks a day, two to three times a week. A few drinks may help increase “good” HDL cholesterol, but heavy drinking can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. The bottomline is don’t be a drunkard.

7. Keep stress at bay
Poorly controlled stress and anger can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Take up a hobby or any activity that can help you de-stress. If it helps, go to the top of a building and scream your lungs out, but de-stress.

8. Control cholesterol
A simple blood test can show your blood cholesterol level. If it’s too high, dietary changes, exercise, weight loss, and/or drug therapy can bring it down to a safer level.

9. Monitor blood pressure
Even if it’s less than 120/80 mm Hg, have it checked at least every two years. If it’s 120/80 or above, have it checked more often, according to your doctor’s recommendations.

10. Control diabetes
Diabetics are twice as likely as non-diabetics to suffer from heart diseases and stroke. Nearly, three-quarters of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. 

How much should you exercise daily?
For an exercise to have effective impact on the health of your heart, the time duration for exercises should be minimum 30 minutes to a maximum of 60 minutes, advises Dr Anjana Laungani. “Aerobic exercises for the heart should be done at least 4-5 times per week. You can go walking (in your compound or treadmill), recumbent cycling, swimming, skipping, stair climbing.

Use props like stepper, dumbells to add variety and resistance, and use training dumbells and weight cuffs for the upper and lower body to add further challenge.  One can also try cross training like a combination of walking and swimming or cycling, and cycling and skipping,” she adds.


Don’t forget these in food
Including certain food items in your diet may benefit the heart immensely. They contain a natural mix of anti-oxidants, phytonutrients and acids to improve functioning of the heart. Here’s are a few  of these wonder foods


Green tea: Anitoxidants present in green tea prevent free radical damage and reduce the oxidative stress on the system. This helps boost circulation and enables adequate oxygenation of tissues.
Omega 3 rich foods: Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the blood pressure and helps control inflammation. They are found in abundance in walnuts, flax seeds, certain fish like salmon, tuna and sardines. Four to five walnuts a day are helpful. About two teaspoons of roasted flax seeds are good and about two servings of salmon or any other fatty fish twice in a week can help meet this need for omega 3.
Sweet potato: It’s low in glycemic index and don’t shoot up the blood sugar level like its regular white counterparts. They are also rich in fiber content and contain lycopene, making it good food for heart.
Carrot: Carrots help control blood sugar levels and tend to lower blood cholesterol levels thus reducing the chance of occurrence of diabetes. Plus the fibre found in them is soluble in nature.
Orange: Oranges help in enhancing the heart health. Rich in Vitamin C and fibre, a mid-sized orange
provides up to 70 calories and almost three grams of fibre.
Oat: It reduces the bad cholesterol level, keeps one full for a longer time, and keeps blood sugar levels even. This helps to keep a check on overt eating in those who do so, which in turn prevents weight gain. Any weight lost only strengthens the heart the most.

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