Cardiovascular disease (CVD) isa major cause of mortality globally, as well as in India . According to a recent study by The Lancet, CVD continues to be the leading cause of deaths across the world, especially in low income countries. Indians have a higher risk for heart diseases owing to their genetic make-up, a fact already documented in several epidemiological studies . One of the main reasons for this is the consistent lifestyle change that many Indians have undergone, including an absence of physical activity, poor dietary regimes, high consumption of sugar, salt, and high intake of saturated and/or trans fats.
World Heart Day, celebrated on September 29th every year, is a reminder for many people across the world to take a step back, and start working towards ensuring their family and their own heart health. Formulated by World Heart Federation, it’s a day dedicated to raise awareness specifically about CVD and how they can be prevented.
This year, take a pledge to become a Heart Hero by following these 6 steps and give your heart the best gift ever:
Step 1: Be conscious of what you eat!
Our elders and loved ones always say, ‘Your body is your temple. Respect it.’ The first step in ensuring that is by being more conscious of what you eat. This year, pledge to treat your body with more respect, by and be more careful of what your family and you eat and strive to make your diet healthier. Include healthy foods like almonds, fruits or oats and avoid unhealthy snacking to see the change.
Stressing on the importance of eating right, leading Bollywood Actress, Soha Ali Khan said, “Maintaining your family’s and your heart’s health takes a serious effort, but in the long run it’s all worth it. Start by incorporating small changes in your diet like opting for healthier snacks like dry, salted or flavored almonds over processed and fried foods which will not only help keep you satiated but also aid in your overall health.”
Step 2: Exercise, exercise and exercise!
With your doctor/physical trainer’s approval, try and include some form of exercise as a part of your daily routine and make an active effort towards leading a fitter lifestyle. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a short jog, time at the gym, swimming, zumba or yoga – choose a form of fitness that makes you feel great, and embrace it.
According toFitness enthusiast and Supermodel, MilindSoman, “An important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is adding a regular dose of exercise to it. I personally love running and swimming – and make sure I try to balance my time between both. The best part about these two forms of exercise, is that you can easily incorporate either in your daily lifestyle, and they are easy to follow even when you are travelling for work, or when on vacation.To support my fitness regime, I also keep a handful of almonds handy so I don’t reach for unhealthy snacks every time I feel hungry.”
Step 3: Learn and be aware of your cholesterol levels!
CVD account for 28% of all deaths in India, more than any other cause . Due to Southeast Asian genetic makeup, Indians have a higher risk of CVD, characterized by elevated levels of harmful LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or ‘bad’ cholesterol and lower levels of beneficial HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or ‘good’ cholesterol. Therefore, it’s important to start being more careful and aware of your LDL cholesterol levels, so you can take make timely changes to help your heart.
According toMadhuri Ruia, Pilates Expert and Diet & Nutrition Consultant, “Taking stock of one’s cholesterol levels and making an active effort to balance it, is a vital step in building overall heart health. A small yet important thing we can do for this is to reduce our intake of highly saturated fats and instead replace them with foods that are rich inmonounsaturated fats like almonds, full fat yogurt or fruits.”
She added, “Years of global research and a large body of scientific evidence suggest that almonds can be beneficial in helping to manage heart disease risk factors. A recent study also highlighted that that the inclusion of45 gms of almonds as part of a healthy diet may help in reducing dyslipidemia, a condition marked by high LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels and low HDL cholesterol levels, which is known to be one of the most important risk factors for CVD among Indians .”
Step 4: Watch that weight!
Abdominal fat is often linked to increased blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and elevated levels of triglycerides which are risk factors that contribute to heart diseases.By being more conscious about your family and your weight, you move one step closer to a healthier lifestyle.
“To keep your heart healthy, it’s important to keep your weight under check. For someone who’s working towards maintaining their weight, almonds are a good snacking option as they are known to have satiating properties that promote feelings of fullness. A recent study showed that in addition to significantly improving LDL cholesterol, snacking on 42 grams of almonds everyday also reduced central adiposity (belly fat) and waist circumference, all well-established heart disease risk factors .”, said Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head-Dietetics, Max Healthcare – Delhi.
Step 5: Work towards keeping your stress under check!
Nowadays, for a lot of Indians, stress has become a regular feature of their lifestyles. As per a recent survey, almost 89% Indians claimed that they were facing stress, in comparison to the global average of 86% . For many, this is also accompanied by emotional eating, or stress eating – which is prompted by one’s feelings and not by the body’s need for food . That said, to aid overall well-being, it’s important to work towards keeping your stress under control and one way to do that is by making time for yourself to do the things that make you feel happy.
Commenting on this,Sheela Krishnaswamy, Nutrition and Wellness Consultant said,“Choose yourself this World Heart Day. Try adding daily activities that make you feel good like spending more time with the people you love, meditation, draw or paint, or read a book you have been meaning to for a long time, but make sure you find time for yourself. For people who tend to counter stress with emotional eating, it’s also a good idea to channel your thoughts into more mindful eating when stress takes center stage. My suggestion is – grab a handful of almonds to satiate your cravings as they will keep you full for a while, limiting you from binge eating on unhealthy food.”
Step 6: And finally, say no to smoking!
Smoking can increase the risk of heart disease as the chemicals in the cigarette smoke damages the lining of the blood vessels of the heart which in turn leads to inflammation and narrowing, that can cause angina or a heart attack .According to World Heart Federation smoking is estimated to cause nearly 10 % of CVDand is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.
Quitting smoking may also have a positive impact on your health because as per a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) heavy cigarette smokers can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 39%within five years if they quit . So give your heart the best gift it could have ever asked for in 2019, and pledge to quit smoking to raise your loved ones and your well-being.