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Lifestyle Changes You Need to Make Right Away To Prevent a Heart Attack

Lifestyle Changes You Need to Make Right Away To Prevent a Heart Attack

Heart attacks and strokes account for about 80% of all deaths and about 74% of urban India is at risk of cardiovascular diseases. Heart disease is slowly reaching an epidemic proportion in India. This World Heart Day, we speak to Dr Ramananda Srikantiah Nadig, Head of the Clinical Advisory Board, healthi , a digital preventive health startup and ask him to share some useful insights on how to prevent a heart attack.

Why is it important for everyone to take preventive action?

Youngsters today are particularly prone to the hazards of heart condition given their unhealthy lifestyles. Some people are also genetically predisposed to heart conditions, which is further exacerbated due to lack of preventive action at an early stage. For those who have an existing heart condition, or those who have suffered a heart attack, the preventive action would entail certain changes in lifestyle. However, the adage 'prevention is better than cure' applies to all others who should aim at making necessary changes right away.

What are the preventive steps everyone should take?

It is important to consider the fact that everyone, irrespective of age or gender, is at risk of acquiring heart diseases. Thus, it is all about making the choice to live healthy, which also does not mean that you miss out on the good things. The following preventive steps can make way for a healthy heart.

# Know your risks

There are certain factors which can put you at an increased risk for heart diseases. While the uncontrollable risk factors include gender, age, family history of heart disease, and menopause (in women); factors which can be modified include smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes, and stress. Being aware of these and taking action is the very first step. Those with other conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure should be informed of the risks. Talk to your doctor about your condition and how to bring the vitals under control - more so if you are genetically predisposed to certain conditions.

# Quit smoking and drinking today

There is research to prove that both active and passive smoking can increase the risk of heart diseases. Quitting tobacco in any form can accrue benefits to the heart right from day one. While the heart rate slows down and oxygen levels in the blood rise within a day of making this choice; the risk of developing coronary heart disease returns to a level similar to that of a non-smoker in a span of years from the time of quitting any form of tobacco. Also, limit the consumption of alcohol. The suggested level is not more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

# Maintain a healthy blood pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a silent killer as it does not show any symptoms often. It can affect the delicate inner lining of blood vessels and put you at an increased risk of heart diseases. Keep a check on your blood pressure, particularly if you have a family history of this condition. Regulate the amount of salt in your diet as an increase in salt consumption can cause a spike in blood pressure levels. Opt for alternatives such as herbs and spices to season your food.

# Consume heart-healthy fats

Large quantities of bad cholesterol, saturated, and trans fats can cause plaque deposits in the heart arteries, thereby leading to blockages and eventually, heart attacks. Consume unsaturated fats, such as those rich in MUFA and PUFA (especially Omega-3 PUFA), as they have a protective effect on the heart and are known as heart-healthy fats. There is no single oil that has the right mix of fatty acids. Therefore, it is important to use a blend of cooking oils to ensure heart health.

# Eat healthy and keep a check on your weight

The Indian diet is rich in fats, mostly unhealthy fats. We have a tendency to consume fried foods and savories. People today indulge in fast foods due to their busy lifestyles, as these are readily available. All this, coupled with a lack of physical activity, can play havoc with your body and make you obese. Increased weight can cause other associated conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, leading to heart problems. Those who carry the bulk of their body fat around their stomach are at a greater risk of heart disease than those whose body fat settles around their bottom, hips, and thighs. Thus, it is important to keep a check on your weight and eat healthy.

Eat whole-grain food as it is higher in fiber and complex carbohydrates and takes longer to digest, leaving you feeling full for a longer time. Including plenty of fruits and vegetables in the diet will not add flavor and variety, but also provide the body with the required nutrients.

# Get moving

The lack of exercise is a major cause of increase in weight. Stay active by doing a moderate workout for about 30 minutes every day as it will increase circulation and thus, benefit the heart. Exercise does more than burn calories; it also activates genes that are beneficial to health in other ways.

# Reduce stress

Long-term stress can lead to a heart attack or sudden death. Get adequate sleep every day and opt for techniques such as yoga and meditation to combat stress. This will also help fight anxiety and excitement, all of which can stress the heart.

What are the periodic tests recommended for everyone to prevent a heart attack?

There are some tests which can help detect the associated risk factors at an early stage and help in the timely management of heart diseases. These are tests that every person must undergo, especially when they are over 30 years of age. These tests are also imperative for those with high BP, borderline high BP, or a family history of this condition. The tests include Complete Blood Count with ESR, Lipid Profile, Liver Function Test, Physical evaluation (Ht, Wt, BP, Waist, Hip), Glucose - Fasting, Creatinine, Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), XRAY - Chest PA, ECG, and Echo /TMT.

(Also read: Hack Your Way To A Healthy Heart By Travelling The World)

(Image Credit: Thinkstock)

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