Although heart disease is one of the primary causes of death, it is not unavoidable. While some risk factors, such as family history, sex, or age, cannot be controlled, there are numerous strategies to lower your risk of heart disease. Elderly adults are more susceptible to heart disease, but in recent years we have seen an increase in heart attack and cardiac arrest cases among children and teenagers. In India, people under the age of 25 are increasingly at risk of type-2 diabetes and life-threatening complications like heart diseases.
According to recent studies by the WHO, heart disease is one of the major causes of deaths globally (approximately 32% of all deaths globally in 2019). For most of us, preventing heart disease depends largely on our lifestyle – physical inertia, poor sleep hygiene and poor emotional hygiene are critical factors to look after – which means there’s much that’s in our power to improve our odds of living long and well.
Family History: An underlying cause
Family history is one of the several known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It has an underlying genetic factor as a cause. Different types of heart diseases and related conditions, like high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, can run in families. Knowing your family history of heart disease and related conditions is one of the first steps you can take to prevent heart disease and heart attack.
Sedentary behavior and physical inactivity are among the leading modifiable risk factors worldwide for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Poor sleep patterns, diabetes and obesity are among the major contributors to cardiovascular disease as well. Making tiny changes to your day-to-day activities can result in major health benefits. Walk at least 10,000 steps a day and avoid using elevators wherever possible. Sitting long hours (over six) without physical activity can cause you as much harm as a pack of cigarettes.
Another important parameter to a healthy heart is sleep hygiene. Disturbed sleep can trigger hormones that can make you prone to high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Keep a track of your sleep cycle. Rate it every morning on a scale from one to ten, ten being ideal. Assess the quality of your sleep based on whether you have to be woken up in the morning or if you dream during your sleep. Further, limit exposure to any digital screens 30 minutes before sleep time, choose nutritious food over unhealthy food, read nutrition labels before picking up items from supermarket shelves such simple lifestyle changes will help you stay motivated to take on bigger habitual changes for the betterment of your health.
Most people know that cigarette and tobacco smoking increase the danger of carcinoma and breathing problems, but few realize that it also greatly increases the danger of developing heart conditions, peripheral vascular disease (a disease in the vessels that supply blood to the arms and legs), and abdominal aortic aneurysms. Putting an end to smoking reduces the risk for heart disease, the risk for repeat heart attacks, and death by heart disease by half. Quitting smoking is a key and it is the most important thing you can do to lower your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol and heart disease: Is there a connection?
Cholesterol is often displayed in poor light because of its association with heart disease. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol because it aids in the removal of other types of cholesterol from the bloodstream. Higher HDL cholesterol levels are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. It is critical to have a standard diet that can be followed for the rest of one’s life to live a healthy and disease-free life. Adults can minimize their risk of heart disease by following healthy eating habits that are low in dietary cholesterol. These high-cholesterol foods, as well as processed and fast foods, can contribute to obesity and weight gain. Obesity and being overweight or obese increase your risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Heart diseases can affect men and women equally and claim lots of lives every year. By making some healthy lifestyle choices, you can improve your heart health. Living post a heart attack or trying to prevent it requires change. Instead of munching on junk foods, people should look for healthy alternatives like fruits, fresh juices, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes. It is also important to avoid trans-fatty acids and include plenty of fresh, green vegetables in the diet rich in minerals and calcium. It is also vital that proper attention is paid to the time of the meals. Small changes to your diet and exercise routines can really pay off when it comes to your heart health. You may find that the change is not so difficult once you start.
(Dr. Rajeev Agarwal, Director-Cardiology, Jaswant Rai Speciality Hospital, Meerut)
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