Health statistics show that heart diseases and attacks are becoming more frequent these days and the age group too shows a steady decline. In the past decade , heart disease and hypertension that lead to heart or organ failure have grown rampant amongst people who are 40 years of age or even younger. Just the other day in my own family we had a tragedy where a youngster aged 35 had a massive and fatal heart attack .The person was a software engineer spending most of his working hours in front of the computer ,so had become overweight and was advised by the doctors to take better care of himself which he had taken lightly and ignored ! 

The most obvious reason for such frequent heart attacks is an indulgent life style and an inadequate diet which are two major causes of heart disease. To stay fit we need to take some measures of care and control in our lifestyle and day today routine. Unless we control our unbalanced dietary habits the health risk can only escalate and by the time we realise the danger it may be too late !

Heart-Healthy-Habits

How to prevent Coronary Diseases

When there are excess deposits of fat, cholesterol or other substances in the inner wall of arteries, the arteries narrow down and harden into a condition known as atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart problem. Once this condition sets in it is not easy to get rid of it only through medication. Many people have this wrong impression that as long as they take some tablets and medication they are safe and don't need to do anything else and this seems to be the most common reason why heart diseases aggravate and become fatal.

However, we must realise what is needed is to break down the substance that is threatening to cause danger to our heart and the only way this can be done effectively is through planned diet and regular exercise. Diet should be varefully planned - fat free and should comprise of protein rich food items rather than carbohydrates. Any exercise routine like yoga, gym or brisk walking should be done on a regular basis to get the proper positive results.

Friendly and unfriendly Fats

According to nutritional experts our daily intake should have less than 30 per cent of fat in our total calorie intake..This should include a maximum of 10 per cent saturated fat and 10 per cent mono – unsaturated fats. 

Saturated fatty acids present in full cream milk and red meat increase your cholesterol levels. So, make it a practice to use non fat or low fat milk products instead of full cream milk and avoid sources of saturated fatty acids like lard, butter, cream, palm oil, coconut oil , desi ghee and vanaspati ! No doubt our mouth waters at the very mention of all these food items but unless we take care, indulging can land us in deep trouble later on in life. In fact, one need not give up altogether on these instead eat in small measures and also compromise on other food stuffs that are heavy and contain high amount of calories by eating more vegetables and consuming more liquids. Many dieticians are of the opinion that curds or Yogurt made from milk from which all the top cream has been removed is the healthiest option. It has lesser calories and is easier to digest than milk and has many other health benefits too.

Mono saturated fats that lower cholesterol as well as prevent formation of blood clots are present in Olive oil ,Olives, Canola, Peanuts and mustard oil. So it is always better to use these oils in your daily cooking. In fact a better option is to change your cooking style and lightly steam vegetables with very little oil and bare minimum amount of spices instead of frying and eat raw vegetables and fruits in plenty.Besides saving oil and money spent on it, you  also become healthier,fitter and have a healthy heart as well.

Omega-3 Fatty acid is another component that prevents atherosclerosis ,which  is present in fish and certain nuts . We find that most people living in the coastal areas eat fish on a daily basis and according to statistics heart diseases are less in these areas because they get all the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids which is present abundantly in fish – Mackerels, Salmon, Tuna, Herring are all very rich sources of this nutrient . For vegetarians a diet that includes Soya bean products, Tofu, Walnuts and butternuts will take care of the requirement. Either way, it is in our best interest to include any one of the above mentioned in our diet on a daily basis.

Cutting Cholesterol

Cholesterol that is consumed through our daily diet should be limited to 300 mg per day. Since it largely comes from animal products, consumption of non vegetarian foods, whole milk and milk products should be restricted. For example :- an egg has 250 gm of cholesterol and it is not advisable to take more than two or three eggs in a week. If you are eating meat daily you need to cut down on that too since having eggs and meat daily adds up the calories.

The healthy alternative like chicken ( lean meat ), fish, beans, vegetables, fruits, bread, pulses, whole-wheat flour, cereals, rice ,millet, skimmed milk and skimmed milk products and vegetable oils like corn, sesame, soya bean, sunflower, canola, olive and mustard have less calorie content. However, anything that we eat should be done in moderation.

It has also been noted that heart disease is less frequent among those who eat high carbohydrate , protein and fiber rich foods. This also means that a balanced diet is the best to adopt. Carbohydrates should provide at least 55 per cent of our daily calories. Food items like bread, chapatis, cereals, rice and dals provide an adequate amount of carbohydrates.

Feast on Fibers

The more fiber in your diet the better for your health .Consuming a lot of legumes, pulses, barley, Broccoli, apple, citrus fruits , as they contain soluble fibers that help in lowering cholesterol. Insoluble fibers in fruits may prevent cholesterol absorption by hastening the passage of food through the intestines. Your diet should contain 20 to 30 gm of fiber rich food every day.

Teaching children to eat oranges, apples, peaches and other soft fruits with its skin makes sure that you get the entire benefit of the fruit including a good amount of fiber. The same goes for vegetables too. Try and cook vegetables with their skin on. You can discard the coarse skin of potatoes, Raw Bananas etc while eating by which time all its nutrients would have already gone into the gravy or the dish.

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Eating Healthy

To restrict your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol , consume a maximum of 150 gms of meat a day and take lean rather than fatty meats. Chicken and fish is the best bet since they have much lesser calories and fatty tissues that piles up the calories. Even while cooking the red meats make sure that you trim all fatty tissues and drain out the fat that accumulates on top after the meat is cooked. Baking, broiling, boiling or grilling is better than frying meats.

For vegetarians ,Pulses are an excellent source of proteins and contain soluble fibers too. They are a healthier alternative to meat. And another important thing we have to bear in mind is to avoid sugar as much as possible. Sugar leads to obesity, which in turn leads to heart disease. All sweet recipes can be made using two thirds the amount of sugar specified in the recipe and adding more flavoring agents like vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom etc can create the impression of sweetness.

Working out and brisk walking is the best option

Dietary control is only half the battle won in controlling our weight and keeping fit. Regular exercise helps to control weight and aerobic exercise strengthens the heart. Deep breathing and Yoga too are very helpful in regulating the heart beat and lungs.

By following a good workout regime, you can also control diabetes and hypertension which lead to coronary artery disease. Try to do some on the spot jogging at home if you are unable to go out for a walk because of bad weather. Cycling, Swimming and of course Brisk walking for 30 minutes to 40 minutes at least 4 times a week has immense benefits for your general health and for your heart.

Preventing Hypertension

Hypertension and atherosclerosis are caused by similar factors. Therefore, apply the same strategies to prevent hypertension as to prevent atherosclerosis , is weight control , exercise and a low fat diet. This may seem like an oft repeated advise that simply goes in and comes out of your ears, but, This is the most effective and time tested prevention system there is ! Once you get into the routine of having fat free diet and daily exercise routine you will suddenly realise that you have that extra spring in your step and you are fitting into all those old clothes that you had put away ! Honestly if we can have all this and the satisfaction of being fit and heart healthy, what stops most of us from taking that first step towards better health?

Most of us don’t take that first step because of laziness and excessive greed for food. People love to eat and cannot think of cutting down on what they think is good food – Ghee, sweets, rich food made with meat, cream ,sugar lots of oil and butter . You don’t have to give up on all these rich foodstuff but it is essential that you cut down and eat more vegetables, fruits and fiber rich food.

If you have a history of heart disease , diabetes and Hypertension in your family, it is all the more reason for you to take preventive measures early in life and teach your children to do the same as well. Start with the most basic – take only 2 or 3 gms of salt per day, cut down on alcohol and give up smoking !

Stay away from Salt

Indian kitchens are filled with  wide varieties of pickles and other kinds of preserves all of which are loaded with salt , spices and oil. In our own interest we need to cut down on salt intake by cutting down consumption of food items like milk products, salted butter, pickles, fried namkheens, butter biscuits etc etc. Here again, there is no need to g overboard and give up salt altogether, instead cut down on these items and add less salt in all the dishes that require salt.

Don’t use salt in salads , instead add lime juice and pepper to give it a flavor. Cold beverages and mineral waters too have sodium content , so stay away from them. Instead you can drink butter milk and green tea. Fruits are high in potassium and low in sodium so go ahead and indulge as much as you want !

Finally, to conclude I know that it is not easy to lead a healthy life, but life gets more difficult if we don’t care and abuse our body. Heart disease can be fatal , but with a little care and a lot of determination , you reduce the chances of it happening to you.

( images from the web- wikimedia and google)


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Comments (2)

  1. jabeen

You have rightly said that the heart related problems have become very rampant even among the young people. Sadly, many people are yet to pay attention to their food habits, either out of ignorance or simply carelessness, and end up with heart...

You have rightly said that the heart related problems have become very rampant even among the young people. Sadly, many people are yet to pay attention to their food habits, either out of ignorance or simply carelessness, and end up with heart diseases. Anyway, thanks for such a nice article on it.

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  1. usha manohar    jabeen

Most welcome jabeen, I agree that we need to take care right from childhood because healthy habits dont come naturally unless it becomes a practice and is cultivated

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