The Heart of the Matter

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heart diseases plaguing indiansThe sudden death of Indian origin, UK labour MP, Ashok Kumar due to an ischemic heart condition has once again put the spot light on heart diseases that are plaguing Indians! We Indians fall in the South East Asian belt which is notoriously weak hearted. For examples sake, in the year 2000, more than half of the 16.7 million heart disease related deaths occurred in South Asia alone. Another report to reiterate the fact that we as Indians are becoming more and more susceptible to heart diseases, is that India is expected to lose around 2 million people to coronary deaths by the year 2010.

What do these numbers and sudden deaths of seemingly fit Indians, as in the case of SAP CEO Ranjan Das highlight? The answer though seemingly simple is quite disturbing, these news and alarming facts point towards a trend which is seeing more and more Indians falling prey to heart diseases! Reasons being changing lifestyles and diet structures along with lack of physical activity and the genetic make-up; while not much can be done about our genes that showcase inherent lipid abnormality which greatly increases our chances of suffering from heart diseases. (However experts have added that poor lipid levels can be modified by the intake of a proper well balanced diet.) In a recent study designed by Apollo hospital and conducted by IMRB, it was found that 40% of Indians were at a high or moderate risk of a heart disease.

With the dice being so loaded against us, what do we do to prevent heart diseases? Following are some simple guidelines that will help us to prevent the occurrence of heart diseases in ourselves!

  • SMOKERS – whether of cigarettes, pipes or cigars – are more than twice at risk of a heart attack than non-smokers.

Studies have found that even one to two cigarettes a day greatly increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions. Non-smokers who are exposed to constant smoke also have an increased risk. If you quit smoking, the health benefits start almost immediately, and within a few years, your risk of stroke and coronary artery disease becomes similar to non-smokers’.

  • EXCESSIVE lipids (fatty substances including cholesterol and triglycerides), especially in the form of LDL cholesterol, cause the build-up of fatty deposits within your arteries, reducing or blocking the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart.There is a sharp increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease when total cholesterol levels are 240 mg/dl and above. Aim for a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dl. LDL cholesterol should be less than 70 mg/dl for patients at very high risk of cardiovascular disease. For all others, LDL cholesterol should be less than 130 mg/dl.

Triglyceride is a form of fat. People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Triglyceride levels should be kept below 150 mg/dl. It is recommended that you have your cholesterol level checked as early as age 20 or earlier if you have a family history of high cholesterol. The cholesterol profile includes an evaluation of total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels. HDL cholesterol takes the LDL (bad) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it can be passed out of the body. High levels of HDL seem to protect against cardiovascular disease.Aim for HDL levels greater than 40 mg/dl; the higher the HDL level, the better. An HDL of 60 mg/dl and above is considered protective against heart disease.

BLOOD pressure measures the pressure or force inside your arteries with each heartbeat.

High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and kidneys, increasing the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease. Aim for a reading of 120/80 mmHg or lower (high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher). Control blood pressure through diet, exercise, weight management and, if needed, medication. DIABETES occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin or use the insulin it has. This results in elevated blood sugar levels. Those with diabetes have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because diabetes increases other risk factors, such as high cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides; lower HDL; and high blood pressure.

Keeping diabetes under control is essential in reducing your risk. The more you weigh, the harder your heart has to work to give your body nutrients. Research shows that being overweight contributes to the onset of cardiovascular disease. Excess weight also raises blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, lowers HDL cholesterol and increases the risk of diabetes.

  • VEGETABLES and fruit are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre – and low in calories.

Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure. Unrefined whole-grain food contains fibre that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight. Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Choose lean meat and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.

  • THE heart is like any other muscle – it needs a workout to stay strong and healthy. Exercising helps improve how well the heart pumps blood through your body. Aim for moderate exercise 30 minutes a day, on most days.

Exercise should be aerobic, involving the large muscle groups. Aerobic activities include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, jumping rope and jogging. However, consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme.

Sources: Hyderabad News, TOI.

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