Saturday, October 1, 2011


A healthier lifestyle can go a long way and make a huge difference when it comes to preventing heart disease. Read on to know the 10 steps towards a healthy heart

By Dr Aashish Contractor

Lifestyle changes characterised by rising incomes, sedentary jobs, and high levels of stress are some of the factors that have contributed to the high incidence of cardio-vascular disease. In India, cardio vascular diseases are responsible for one-third of all deaths. Controlling the risk factors and adopting a healthier lifestyle can make a big difference when it comes to this disease.

1 Eat right 

Avoid saturated fats and trans-fats as they raise the bad cholesterol level (LDL). Check the labels of food items before consuming them and avoid anything that is ‘partially hydrogenated’ as this is a clear indicator that it contains trans-fat. Cut out red meat from your diet and add fruits and vegetables instead. However, not all fats are bad for the body, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that include Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential for good health and help protect against risk of heart attacks and strokes. Food items that contain good fats include almond, walnut, avocado, tuna and flax seed.

2 Choose your oil wisely  
Cooking oil needs to be chosen carefully to maintain heart health and optimum levels of cholesterol in the body. Use oils with a higher monounsaturated fat content and lower saturated fat content, such as canola oil, olive oil and groundnut oil. Do not reuse your cooking oil as this can result in the creation of trans-fats.

3 Take a walk

Exercise helps protect against heart disease and several forms of cancer. But besides regular exercise every extra step you take during the day builds up your ‘health balance’, and helps prevent disease. Try and factor in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as walking) in your daily life. Exercise burns the excess fats in the body and helps control the blood cholesterol. It will also reduce stress and normalise the pulse rate.

4 Control body weight

Studies have shown that exercise programs and healthy eating lead to improved health parameters, even in the absence of weight loss. However, these studies should not be seen to be a license to be overweight. Body weight is directly related to eating behaviours and the type of food being consumed. Depending on your height and age, it’s advisable to figure out your ideal weight and then make an effort to achieve or maintain that.

5 Be relaxed

Stress has several negative effects on our body, and should be kept under control. While, some stress is important it is vital to not allow it to completely take over our lives. Take up a hobby that helps you relax. It could be something as simple as cooking or gardening but make sure you take some time out for yourself.

6 Blood pressure under control

Blood pressure is an important measure for prevention of heart attacks. Your heart has to work harder to push blood through your body when your blood pressure is high. This causes your heart to enlarge and can speed up atherosclerosis (deposition of fats inside the arteries). In case you suffer from this condition, make sure you take your medications on time. Avoiding excessive consumption of sodium can also help reduce high blood pressure.

7 Stop smoking

A smoker’s risk of having a heart attack is more than twice that of a non-smoker. Smoking speeds up the development of plaque in the arteries. It also reduces the level of the good cholesterol (known as HDL), and increases the stickiness of blood cells causing blood clots inside the arteries. 8 Sugar’s not so sweet If you have diabetes, keep the blood sugar under ‘tight control’. Remember, physical activity is the best way to burn off excess sugar in the blood. Those with diabetes are more prone to heart disease, especially women.

9 All in the family

Heart disease has a strong genetic component. If your parents or siblings have had heart disease you need to be doubly careful and start getting yourself checked at an early age. However, just because you may have a family history does not mean you will definitely develop heart disease, but your risk is higher.

10 get yourself checked

We all feel that it will ‘never happen to me’, but heart disease is an equal opportunity killer. Unfortunately most of the risk factors for heart disease are silent – they give you no warning of their presence. You should get your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and weight checked on a regular basis. Ideally, these tests should start at the age of 15, and then be repeated periodically. If you have crossed 40, it’s also a good idea to undergo a stress test.

    Dr Aashish Contractor is
    the Head of Department: Preventive Cardiology and
    Rehabilitation, Asian Heart Institute

Courtsey : TOI