A doctor, a nutritionist and a fitness trainer dole out tips to keep your heart muscle pumping
Did you know cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s leading cause of death? According to the World Heart Federation, it claims over 18 million lives every year, globally. But the good news is, it can be prevented and controlled by simply making a few lifestyle changes. In order to spread more awareness about CVD and encourage heart-healthy living, World Heart Day is celebrated every year on September 29. We asked experts to share simple tips that’ll keep your heart health on the right track.
1. Pay attention to what’s on your plate
It is rightly said that you are what you eat. So, the next time you pile up those fried snacks and munchies on your plate, take a second to think about its impact on your heart and overall health. According to Shweta Shah, nutritionist and co-founder of Fitza, omega-3 fatty acids are great for improving heart health, so include pumpkin and sesame seeds, and walnuts in your diet. “Broccoli is an excellent heart-healthy food so add it to your salads or stir-fry,” she says. She also recommends having ash gourd juice, pomegranate, and herbs and spices like cinnamon, holy basil, turmeric, ginger and garlic for improving one’s heart health. A simple tip she suggests is to walk 100 steps after every meal to help improve one’s digestion.
2. Get moving
A sedentary lifestyle is an open invitation to a host of health issues, doubling your risk of an early onset of heart disease. To keep your heart’s health intact, get your daily dose of exercise by doing any workout that you enjoy. Namrata Purohit, entrepreneur, fitness expert and partner at The Pilates Studio, suggests getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity five days a week (150 minutes/week) or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week (75 minutes/week). She adds, “Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise which directly works the heart is a great way to maintain or improve heart health. Another important form of exercise is resistance training like pilates. While aerobic activity can improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure and the resting heart rate, resistance training can lower fat and improve lean body mass which can increase the good HDL cholesterol and reduce the bad LDL cholesterol.”
3. Test your heart
An annual health checkup is a must for all women, especially once you hit 30. Keeping a track of what’s going on inside helps prevent health issues or catch them early on before it is too late. Dr Brajesh Kunwar, director-interventional cardiology, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital Vashi, lists some basic tests for learning about your heart’s health. These include an electrocardiogram (ECG), an echocardiogram which is essentially a scan of the heart, and the treadmill test, also known as the ‘stress test’. The results help determine whether one has a risk factor for any cardiac disease in terms of diabetes, hypertension or heart blockages.
4. Avoid these
According to Shah, having a cup of tea or coffee on an empty stomach is a strict no, so are processed foods laden with excess sugar, sodium and empty calories. “Regular consumption of junk food rich in sugar and saturated fats adversely impacts one’s heart and overall health. Added to this, leading a sedentary life with little to no movement, smoking and indulging in substance or alcohol abuse, cause further damage to one’s heart health. These factors are responsible for early cardiac issues as they increase the chances of significant risk factors,” says Dr Kunwar.
5. Inculcate heart-healthy habits
Eating a balanced meal with an intake of protein, fibre, and good fats is good for your heart. Including seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet and having your dinner around sunset is a healthy habit you can follow. Shah recommends adding millets like jowar, ragi, samai and kodo to one’s daily diet. Make sure you are getting ample shut-eye as lack of sleep can lead to poor heart health. “The heart is a muscle and just like all other muscles, it gets stsronger and healthier with effort. Set realistic exercise goals and work your way up in a sustainable way. There are no shortcuts,” concludes Purohit.