Heart stands for love, and we use it so often in valentine cards, letters, and lines like “My heart belong to you”. Then why not love your heart? Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death worldwide. A heart attack occurs when blood supply to a part of the heart is abruptly cut off, generally due to blood clot formation in the blood vessels of the heart. Luckily though, today we know that preventive measures can make major changes in its incidence and prevalence. A little knowledge and a bit of lifestyle changes can give your life added time. So, this New Year why don’t you resolute to saving your heart from an attack. Here is all you need to know to keep your heart happy and healthy.
Unless one is aware of the symptoms you may not think about it. The most common symptom is chest discomfort the description may vary from pain, burning sensation, pressure or heaviness. The location varies from centre of chest, left side of chest, neck, lower jaw, shoulder, or left upper limb. It might start in the chest and radiate to any of these regions also. The uneasiness may be associated with sweating, nausea, and fatigue.
Check your Cholesterol
Too much cholesterol damages artery walls, ultimately leading to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and HDL, or highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol). High LDL levels increase the risk of coronary heart disease while high HDL levels are associated with decreased risk. So, it’s important toknow your numbers. Your HDL should be greater than 45 for men and greater than 55 for women. Your LDL should be less than 100 (or less than 70 if you have two or more risk factors for heart disease) and your triglycerides should be less than 150.
Know Your Blood Sugar and Pressure Level
It is very important to get one’s blood sugar checked periodically. People with a family history of diabetes, obese individuals, and people leading a sedentary lifestyle need to get it checkedmore often. In diabetic patients keeping the blood sugar well under control goes a long way in preventing CoronaryArtery Disease (CAD). High blood pressure is also an important risk factor for CAD. This needs to be monitored and treatment started when required. Any blood pressure above 120/80 mm Hg needs lifestyle changes and blood pressure above 140/ 90 mm Hg needs medical therapy.
There is overwhelming evidence that poor physical fitness predicts a substantially higher risk of premature heart disease and death. To gain the health benefits of exercise, you should aim for 45 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week. Walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are good exercises. Always warm up, and when starting for the first time, gradually build up the intensity over two to three weeks. Maintaining an ideal body weight is very important. Regular exercises with appropriate diet could help most patients achieve this. Appropriate body weight helps in control of blood pressure and diabetes, which in turn can reduce the incidence of CAD.
Record Your Family History
It’s important to know specifics about your loved ones’ heart health – for instance, was your mother or sister diagnosed with heart or vascular disease before age 65? Your own risk of cardiovascular disease increases if you have a family history of the disease.
If You Smoke, Stop!
Cigarette smokers have approximately one and a half to two times the risk ofdeveloping heart disease than nonsmokers do. Unlike age or other risk factors, you can quit smoking. There is good evidence that quitting can reduce the risk of heart disease, perhaps as early as one to two years after quitting.
You need to motivate yourself to succeed in quitting and you could also talk to your doctor about using nicotine gum or patches to help you quit smoking.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Overall, 90 to 95 percent of the time you should be eating a variety of delicious vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, sprinkled with healthy fats and moderate, lean protein sources. The other 5 to 10 percent of what you eat can be left for some of your favourite foods that may not necessarily promote a healthy heart. This approach reduces frustration, and leaves you satisfied and results in successful, long-term weight management.
Learn to Handle Stress
Stress cannot be avoided in one’s life but we need to learn how to handle stress. Activities like yoga, meditation etc may help people to handle these situations better.
Be familiar with some basic first aid measures like taking a tablet of aspirin and be ready with a number you could call, or a doctor you could contact, in case of an emergency.
Have a healthy heart and a healthy year ahead.