Annually, about 31% of deaths worldwide are attributed to cardiovascular diseases. This makes heart diseases as the single most common cause of death globally. The statistics and related information are alarming and available for everyone to read, but for some reason, most of the people continue to live in either ignorance or denial.
So, what is cardiovascular disease(CVD)? CVDs are a group of disorders primarily involving the heart and the blood vessels in the body. Further analysis reveals that four out of five CVD related deaths are attributable to heart attacks and strokes. And sadly, a third of these is in people below the age of 70, quite premature, one could say.
The Five Most Effective Ways To Prevent Heart Disease?
One can compile a long list of dos and don’ts related to the health of the heart. However, the most effective five ways could be categorized as:
Stay Away From Smoking; Quit If You Already Are A Smoker
Smoke from a cigarette contains about 7000 chemicals. These, over time, can damage the heart and blood vessels. The damage, of course, depends upon the amount one smokes and the period for which one stays a smoker. Smoking, even occasionally, can have a hazardous effect. So, it best to quit altogether.
Important to remember is that the damage caused by smoking can take years to heal, even after quitting.
Another important and disturbing fact is that passive smoking or second-hand smoking also increases one’s chance of getting heart disease by 25% to 30%.
Sounds simple right? Yes and no. Needs a little awareness about what is right and a lot of self-discipline and willpower to stick to it!
So here is what one needs to monitor in one’s diet:
- Levels of foods rich in saturated fat and trans fat– These should be kept low as too much of these can elevate the cholesterol levels in the body and subsequently lead to heart disease
- Levels of daily salt (sodium) in the diet- Excess of salts can lead to hypertension which leads to cardiovascular diseases
- Levels of sugar in the diet-Keeping sugar at lower levels helps in preventing and controlling diabetes
It is also recommended to avoid too much alcohol as it can lead to raised blood pressure. Men should restrict to a maximum of two drinks per day and women to one drink per day.
A well-balanced, healthy diet is what is recommended. This means plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains that form a rich source of fiber. This can be supplemented with fish (preferably oily one), nuts, legumes, seeds, and low-fat dairy products. A good balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals is recommended. Meat, of course, should be lean and with least fat.
Engaging In Regular Physical Activity
Regular physical activity is crucial to one’s health. It helps one maintain a healthy weight and also helps regulate one’s blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol.
The physical activity could be in many different forms like brisk walking, dancing, aerobics, workouts, bicycling, etc. At least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week is what is recommended for adults. And for children and adolescents, it should be at least one hour of physical activity every day.
Lifestyle complexities in today’s social and workplace domains have led to increased levels of stress in people. Research work in this field has picked up a lot of momentum over the last few years. Several indicators (objective and subjective) of occupational stress have been consistently related to heart disease.
Chronic stress can lead to inflammation in the body, which in turn can lead to elevated blood pressure and also lower the levels of the good cholesterol(HDL) in the body.
Different ways to reduce stress can be:
- pursuing a hobby,
- practicing meditation,
- practicing yoga,
- practicing tai-chi, etc.
- listening to music
- playing a sport or even an indoor game
Stressors and de-stressors can be different for different individuals. Each person has his own level of stress tolerance and has a unique way of destressing. One just needs to explore and find it. Good sleep can also be a great stress buster. A good night’s sleep is recommended for its great health benefits.
Managing Underlying Health Conditions
It is imperative that if one already has an existing underlying health condition, then one must take all necessary medications and precautions to keep these under control. The underlying condition could be diabetes, hypertension, elevated levels of cholesterol, or kidney disorder. Visit the doctor regularly and monitor these conditions regularly. One can always lower the risk by strictly adhering to the treatment plan, which includes not only the medications but also the recommended lifestyle and dietary changes.
Even if one does not have these underlying conditions, it is important to visit a doctor regularly and start health screenings on time. More so if there is a family history. It is a great practice to start as early as the late twenties and get screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar, and body mass index.
Remember- priorities need to be set right. And the top of the list has to be health-physical, spiritual, and emotional. The body is the best friend one has, and it needs to be looked after.