Seven steps for a healthy heart

Identify the chances of heart diseases and cancer and how to keep them away from our door. How many of these healthy steps are we following?

1. Walking

Walking is one of the easiest forms of physical activity. Regular walking helps in maintaining our overall health. Even those who cannot indulge in a lot of physical activity can manage to walk. Make it a habit to walk daily – try walking as a family or group activity : it is fun and gives a lot of together time which helps relieve stress.

2. Maintaining Body Mass Index

Referred to as BMI in short – Body Mass Index is the measure of body fat based on height and weight of a person. BMI is a measure of a person’s thickness or thinness. It is used by health specialists to check if a person is sedentary or physically active. Having optimal weight is related to a person’s overall well-being. Excessive physical weight leads to obesity and has its own list of health issues. It is best to start any kind of physical activity and slowly progress towards achieving the optimal BMI.

3. Eating balanced nutritious food

A balanced diet is one that gives our body the nutrients it needs to function correctly. Each food has its own level of calories. An average person needs to take around 2000 calories daily to maintain their weight depending on their physical activity. In general men tend to need more calories than women. Some foods have almost no calories and taking them do not help our body. Cheese, pizzas, cakes, energy drinks, ice cream, sodas etc. do not give nutrition and amount to empty calories. A balanced diet is essential to allow our body part to work optimally without fatigue, malnutrition and diseases. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of nutrients. Although fruits have sugar, it is natural and is easily processed by the body. Vegetables provide us vitamins and minerals. Green leafy vegetables are more nutritious than others. Whole grains are preferable to refined white flour. Protein that come with less fat are good for the body. Lentils, beans, peas, almonds sunflower seeds and walnuts come with plenty of fiber and are a great source of protein. Dairy products give us calcium and vitamin D. Choose low fat milk and plant based milk such as almond and soy milk. As much as possible oil usage should be minimal. Olive oil can replace other fatty oils and it is better to avoid deep fried food.  Overall it is best to avoid alcohol, refined grains, solid fats, saturated and trans fats, too much of salt and sugar.

4. Keeping cholesterol under control

Cholesterol is a fat like substance that is in the body. Our body needs cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D and digestion of food. Our body produces the cholesterol that it needs. It is also found in foods based on animal sources such as meat, cheese and egg yolk. Presence of too much cholesterol in our blood combines with other substances to form plague, which sticks to the arteries. Over time, these may accummulate and clog the coronary arteries, hindering the blood flow. This state is known as Coronary Artery Disease.

Cholesterol is classified as HDL, LDL and VLDL. HDL is High Density Lipoprotein, LDL is Low Density Lipoprotein and VLDL is Very Low Density Lipoprotein. The HDL is also known as ‘good cholesterol’ since it carries the cholerterol from other parts of the body to the liver, where the cholesterol is separated. LDL and VLDL are known as ‘bad cholesterol’ since they tend to accummulate build up of plague in the arteries.

Unhealthy lifestyles is the main cause of high cholesterol. It may be due to bad eating habits wherein lots of bad fats are consumed. Excessive eating of meats, deepfried / processed foods, chocolates, etc. tends to increase the cholesterol levels. Lack of physical activity leads to a lowered HDL and increased LDL. Smoking also lowers the good cholesterol especially in women. It increases the bad cholesterol. Fortunately, it is easy to keep tabs in the cholesterol levels by following the first three steps above.

5. Keeping blood pressure under control

When the heart beats, it pumps blood around the body to distribute the energy and oxygen. The pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels is known as Blood Pressure. A measured healthy blood pressure is written as 120/80 mm Hg. The first number is known as systolic blood pressure and the second number is known as diastolic blood pressure. Blood pressure that is Elevated from this range may be known as high blood pressure or hypertension and often needs proper treatment. A lower blood pressure though does not call for great alarm, is also to be considered for medical treatment of hypotension, depending on the numbers.

6. Keeping blood sugar levels under control

Blood sugar or glucose is the main sugar present in the blood. The body gets glucose from the food that we eat. It is an important source of energy and provides nutrients to the various organs and parts of the body.  The normal blood sugar range is 100mg/dL on fasting and 140mg/dL two hours after eating. Sometimes, random checks can also be done to verify the numbers of the blood sugar level. A high blood sugar may lead to a condition known as Diabetes. Our body parts cannot handle too much sugar. Some of the effects of high blood sugar are : Kidney diseases, strokes, heart attacks, vision loss, loss of immunity, erectile dysfunction, nerve damage, poor blood circulation in the feet, wounds get healed slowly etc.

7. No Smoking

Cigarette smoking is harmful to almost every part of the body. Smoking is the cause of majority of preventable deaths in the world. 90%  of lung related diseases are caused by smoking. Smoking increases the rate of coronary heart disease around 2 to 4 times. Smoking damages the blood vessels and causes thickening  and growing narrow, leading to slower transport of blood. This causes the heart to beat faster in order to pump the blood – increasing blood pressure. Smoking increases the chance of stroke and decreased flow of blood to the feet.

The good news about quitting smoking: It cuts the cardiovascular risks – 1 year after quitting reduces the chances of heart attack significantly. Risk of cancer in the mouth, throat etc. reduce to that of non-smokers within 5 years. Ten years after quitting smoke reduces the chance of lung cancer by 50%.

Follow the above 7 steps for a healthy heart and a healthy life.

After all health is wealth !

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