World Heart Day 2020: The Art of Heart-Healthy Living

Updated: 29 September, 2020 13:22 IST | Maitrai Agarwal | Mumbai

This World Heart Day, Dr. Rajan Verma discusses the impact of our diet and lifestyle on our heart health

Photo used for representational purposes only.
Photo used for representational purposes only.

World Heart Day is observed on 29 September each year.  Established by the World Heart Federation, the global campaign aims to spread awareness about heart health among all stakeholders.

According to the World Health Organization, Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) account for 31% of all global deaths (17.9 million) every year making it the number one cause of death globally. Behavioural factors such as unhealthy diet, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and alcohol abuse are the root causes behind most cases of CVD. Considering people with underlying health conditions, such as heart diseases are more vulnerable to Covid-19, never before have we had to lay such an emphasis on the importance of being heart healthy. 

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The good news is that we can change our behaviour and take preventive action. Research suggests that atleast 80% of premature deaths from stroke and heart disease can be avoided. With awareness and factual information, governments and communities can come together to lessen the global disease burden and inspire people to take charge of their (heart) health. 

We spoke to Dr. Rajan Verma, Medical Director, Oncquest Laboratories, to better understand ‘heart-healthy living’ and the impact of our diet and lifestyle on our heart health.

What is heart-healthy living?

Heart-healthy living involves understanding your risk, making choices, and taking steps to reduce your chances of getting heart disease, including coronary heart disease, the most common type. Coronary and other types of heart disease cause heart attacks, but by taking preventive measures, you can lower your risk of developing heart disease and also improve your overall health and well-being.

How is heart health-related to improper food habits?

Diet is an important risk factor in coronary heart disease. Food-related risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, and a diet high in saturated fats. A low-saturated fat, high-fibre, high plant food diet can substantially reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

How is obesity related to an unhealthy heart?

Obesity has consistently been associated with an increased risk of metabolic diseases and cardiovascular disease. “An increase in body fat can directly contribute to heart disease through atrial enlargement, ventricular enlargement, and atherosclerosis,” said Dr. Verma.

Further, increased body fat indirectly contributes to heart disease. Through the promotion of sleep apnoea, thromboembolic disease, and onset or worsening of metabolic diseases that are major cardiovascular disease risk factors, including dyslipidaemia, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.

How to take care of our heart health during the Pandemic?

Being in self-quarantine can lead people to adopt unhealthy eating habits. To avoid stress and exhaustion, make sure you follow a daily schedule and maintain a healthy lifestyle:

  • Continue doing exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep
  • Maintain your social network even remotely and communicate with your friends and family on a regular basis
  • Limit the information you consume about the outbreak and the time you spend on it, and only trust reliable sources
  • Avoid using coping strategies involving alcohol or drugs

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The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. You can meet these targets easily at home by taking short active breaks during the day, following an online exercise class, or simply taking a brief walk. 

For those who are on medication, it is imperative that they continue taking medication and follow medical advice. Securing a month’s supply of your medication is advisable.

What is the type of food which should be consumed for good heart health?

As new evidence emerges, the link between diet and heart disease grows stronger. What you put on your plate can influence just about every aspect of heart health, from blood pressure and inflammation to cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Including these heart-healthy foods as part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet can help keep your heart in good shape and minimize your risk of heart disease.

Here are a bunch of incredibly heart-healthy foods you can incorporate in your diet:

  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Berries
  • Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Beans
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Tomatoes
  • Almonds
  • Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil

Which food should someone suffering from heart disease avoid?

Reducing your risk of heart disease is a two-way street. While eating a heart-healthy diet can lower your risk, it is also important to avoid eating foods that can increase your risk for heart disease. Eating foods high in saturated fats and trans fats increase your likelihood of having heart disease. An easy way to omit these fats from your diet is to cook with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening. Foods high in trans-fat and saturated fat to avoid include:

  • Crackers
  • Doughnuts
  • Baked goods (cakes, cookies, and pie crust)
  • Fried foods
  • Non-dairy creamer
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. While you do not need to eliminate red meat out of your diet, limit your consumption to less than 150 grams per day.

What can we do in our everyday life to prevent heart-related problems?

Keeping a healthy heart is the most important thing you can do to prevent heart disease. This involves lowering your blood pressure, your cholesterol level, and your risk of developing diabetes. There are a number of lifestyle choices you can make that will help reduce these key factors to prevent heart disease:

  • No Smoking
  • Healthy Diet
  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption
  • Be Physically Active
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Reduce Stress

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First Published: 29 September, 2020 12:57 IST

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