Secrets to a Healthy Heart

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or also known as heart diseases are ranked as the number one killer in the world. According to the World Heart Federation, 17.1 million people die of CVD and stroke every year, which represents thirty percent of all global deaths.

The good news is – heart diseases in most cases, are avoidable. This is why World Heart Day is commemorated each year. It is not only to inform people around the globe that heart diseases and stroke are the world’s leading cause of death but also to promote preventative measures which reduce the risk of CVD.

Risk factors that may lead to heart diseases and stroke include:

  • Elevated levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose
  • Smoking
  • Inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables
  • Overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity

This year, World Heart Day is celebrated on 29 September. It addresses healthy heart tips with a focus on women and children. This is because heart diseases are no longer an illness more prevalent among men. In fact, recent studies have shown that more women succumb to heart diseases each year, with a shocking death rate of 1 in 3 females.

Children are vulnerable to heart diseases too because the risk of CVD begins as early as before birth (during foetal development), and increases during childhood due to the exposure to harmful lifestyle habits such as unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and smoking.

Below are some tips to help you start your journey towards a healthy heart and life. You are encouraged to practice healthy eating, be physically active and say ‘no’ to tobacco! This healthy lifestyle should be implemented amongst children as well because healthy children will bloom to be healthier adults with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Eat more vegetables and fruits

A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables is essential as components contained in them could protect you against heart diseases and stroke. For example, flavanoids which are found in the skin of red or purple grapes help to clear arteries from plaque.

Vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants and fiber too. Antioxidants are able to reduce free-radical damage in the heart and help to manage bad cholesterol levels, while fibre delays the rise in blood sugar levels.

Include Beta-carotene sources

Beta-carotene could reduce your risk of stroke. Good sources of it include carrot, sweet potato, apricot and dark green leafy vegetables.

Consume whole Grains

Whole grains are unrefined as the bran or germ of the grain is not removed. They contain folic acid, B vitamins and fiber, all of which are important protectors against heart diseases. Processed grains that are used to make white bread and white flour do not provide the same benefits as whole grains.

Brilliant B-vitamins

High levels of homocysteine are related to higher risks of heart diseases. Folic acid as well as vitamin B-6 and B-12 may possibly help to breakdown homocysteine in the body.

Take Good Fats

Yes, we require good fats for good health. However, our food choices today tend to be infused with higher amounts of bad fats than good. Trans fats and excess saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, which leads to atherosclerosis. Be sure to decrease your intake of food containing bad fats and include good fats into your diet instead. For example, Omega-3 and Omega-6, which are essential fatty acids (EFAs) which our bodies cannot produce. It helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Eat more Fish

Oily, cold-water fish (such as wild salmon & tuna) provide you the benefits of EFAs. For example, countries with high fish consumption have shown to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Go for Nuts

Eating nuts regularly is associated with a decreased risk of heart diseases.

Garlic is Good

Studies have confirmed that garlic can possibly lower blood pressure, reduce phospholipids and cholesterol, strengthen heart, increase immune response and reduce clotting, thus reducing your chances of stroke. Take several cloves of raw or lightly-cooked garlic daily to obtain its benefits. However, if it irritates your stomach, opt for supplements instead.

Limit Salt Intake

High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. Processed foods, which are often high in sugar, salt and saturated fat should be reduced or avoided. It has been estimated that a total reduction of sodium intake by 1 gramme a day (about 3 grammes of salt) would lead to a fifty percent decrease in having to consume medication to control high blood pressure.

Plus, this would lead to a 22 percent decline in death rates resulting from strokes and a 16 percent reduction in the number of deaths due to heart diseases.

Get Active and Exercise

Exercise is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of heart diseases, even if you already have an existing heart condition. Exercise isn’t only limited to sports or heading to the gym. It refers to any bodily movement that uses energy. So, get started today! Go for a walk, skip with a jump rope, swim or do leg lifts and arm raises in bed. Remember, even simple exercise routines count!

No Tobacco

If you are a smoker, you should consider quitting smoking. Nicotine, found in cigarettes will not do your heart any good. It accelerates the heart rate, damages blood vessels and raises blood pressure.

With this in mind, don’t forget to educate your children on the dangers of tobacco use too. This is will help them say no to smoking in the near future.

Did you know?

   By 2030, an estimated 23 million people will die from CVDs annually.

   That is more than the population of Australia! Act now, save your HEART!

Reference:

  1. Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series 916: Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. 2003. Whor Health Organization. Geneva
  2. A Rozanski, JA Blumenthal, J Kaplan. Impact of psychological factors on the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and implications for therapy. Circulation. 1999 Apr 27;99 (16):2192-17
  3. World Heart Federation Organization printed materials

 

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