Eating healthy, exercising daily, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing chronic conditions are some of the common tips & tricks that come to our mind for a healthy heart. But this world heart day, let’s unleash some of the hidden secrets to keep your heart in the best of health and ensure better cardiovascular health for everyone – you, your friends and family. Let’s get started!
1. “Add” to your platter
Instead of cutting down on all the treats and restricting various foods from your diet, load, add a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits to your plate at every meal. This can not only up your nutrient intake but the crunch, fibre & sweetness can also help satiate your hunger pangs and maintain weight, which in turn can help prevent heart disease in the long run.
2. Pick the right ‘type’ of cooking oil
Using a combination of oils, a mixture of one or two types of oil, at the same time, instead of using just one all round the year, can be a good idea for your heart. You can try opting olive oil for salad dressings, stir-frying, or sauteing; and mustard oil or rice bran oil for cooking and frying. Desi ghee is also healthy for cooking, if consumed within limits .
3. Choose proteins wisely
Eating the right amount and the right type of protein is the key to building your body and promoting your overall health, including the heart. According to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is one gram per kilogram of body weight . This doesn’t mean you eat red meat but replace it with lean chicken, fish and other vegetarian sources of protein. Here are top 6 protein sources for vegetarians.
4. Read your food labels
Most of us check the MRPs of food packs before buying but never think of reading the food labels. It’s high time you understand the food labels & check for calorie content, sugar content, salt content and overall nutritional value. This can help you to know, learn and monitor what you eat. Steer clear of unhealthy eating habits, processed foods & high sodium intake, as these are responsible for poor heart health.
5. Beware of the “sneaky” sugar
We all know that salt is a major culprit for hypertension and heart disease. But sugar is no less due to the high calories and increased risk of inflammation. A 2015 study reported that added sugars, especially in soft drinks, can have a direct effect on blood pressure, which is a known risk factor for heart disease. So beware of sweetened beverages, deserts & energy drinks. Here are 11 hidden sources of sugar you should be aware of!
Note: Replace artificial sweeteners with natural sugar substitutes to satiate your sweet tooth and cut down on added sugar.
6. Sweat it out in ‘breaks’
Being active doesn’t mean hitting the gym or walking but doing a few stretches in between your office work or jumping jacks between episodes when bingeing on your favourite TV show. These simple activities can help burn calories, improve blood flow to the heart and body and reduce the ill-effects of constant sitting (also known as the new smoking). The aim is to move more & sit less.
7. Do “brush” it off!
Did you know people with gum disease are 2 to 3 times at higher risk of suffering from a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease ? This is because when oral bacteria from dental plaque reaches your heart, it can lead to the formation of arterial plaque, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. So brush your teeth daily for your heart’s sake!
8. Include heart-related tests in your “comprehensive” check-ups
By checking blood pressure and blood lipid profile every year, we think we are done with our heart check-up. But this is not sufficient because experts recommend going for a treadmill test more often than not to check your heart status. Also known as stress test, this test helps to understand how well the heart is working under stress or during a physical activity. In case of any abnormalities, your doctor may recommend further cardiac screening tests such as ECG, echocardiogram, CRP, etc.
9. Catch your ZZZs
Sleep is that golden time when our body rejuvenates itself and goes through repair and detoxification. Lack of sleep can not only affect your blood pressure and inflammatory markers but also put you at risk of diabetes and obesity which can impair your heart function and health . So make sure to get your daily dose of sleep for a rejuvenating tomorrow.
10. Laugh Out Loud (LOL!)
It is aptly said that laughter is the best medicine. Laughing not only eases stress and tension but also improves your heart health by increasing the blood flow and oxygen to the heart . Other simple and effective ways to calm your mind are to play indoor games, gardening, painting or learning a new activity.
11. Learn about the warning signs
The last but the most important factor is to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, and pain or discomfort in the jaw, arms, and shoulder, immediately consult a doctor as these could be a sign of a heart attack.
These little things that you do today can help you to reap benefits over time. This world heart day make sure you follow these simple habits on a regular basis to pump up your heart health & add years to your life!
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
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