A healthy human heart beats at about 70-80 beats per minute, which increases or decreases depending on various factors. Heart is the most vital organ of the body as it supplies blood to all the other organs of the body, therefore any decrease in functioning of heart has direct bearing on all the other organs of the body.
Here are ways one can go beyond good exercise and diets to take care of their heart.
Start young: As parents, it is important to encourage your children to take care of their heart at an early age. Inculcate good habits in them such as eating smart, getting plenty of fresh air, being physically active and avoiding tobacco. It is also advisable to regularly monitor cardiovascular indicators such as BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Also ensure that your children maintain a healthy weight and that they avoid the intake of foods that are high in fats, cholesterol and sugar. It is also advisable to encourage your children to actively take part in sports like cricket, football, and swimming among others.
Laugh out loud: Research has proven that laughter is good for heart and help protect against cardiac arrests. According to the AHA(American Heart Association), research suggests laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD), also known as “good cholesterol.”
Avoid tobacco: Smoking is one of the major reasons for heart disease. Along with unhealthy blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking increases your chances of heart disease. Smoking even by healthy individuals without any other risk factors increases the risk of heart disease.
Eat healthy: Eating healthy is one of the easiest ways to keep your heart healthy. It is advised that one eat an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes on a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils. One must also limit saturated fat, trans-fats, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you prefer to eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available.
Side step salt: According to a report published by New England Journal of Medicine, if average salt intake is reduced to just half a teaspoon a day it would significantly cut the number of people who develop coronary heart disease every year. The salt content tends to be high in processed foods along with the food prepared in restaurants. So think twice before filling upon your favorite fast-food fix.
Go nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch of heart-healthy fats, protein, and fibre. Including them in your diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Make time for breakfast: The first meal of the day is an important one. Eating a nutritious breakfast everyday can help you maintain a healthy diet and weight.
Eat dark chocolate: We’ve grown up hearing that chocolate is bad for you, but the truth is that dark chocolate is good for your heart, because of the antioxidants and flavanols present in them. Besides this, dark chocolate also helps restore flexibility to the arteries. Eaten in moderation, dark chocolate can actually be good for you.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise is imperative to lowering the risk of heart disease. Any form of aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, jogging, biking etc. for about 30-45min a day for five days in a week is best for overall stamina and flexibility.
Stretch it out: Yoga can help you improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. It can help you relax and relieve stress. As if that’s not enough, yoga also has potential to improve heart health. According to research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, yoga demonstrates potential to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Move it, move it, move it: No matter how much you weigh, sitting for long periods of time could shorten your lifespan, warn researchers in the Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Heart Association. Couch potato and desk jockey lifestyles seem to have an unhealthy effect on blood fats and blood sugar. If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around.
Take the stairs: Exercise is essential for good heart health, so why not sneak it in, in every opportunity? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park on the far side of the parking lot. Walk to a colleague’s desk, instead of emailing them. Play with your kids at the park, instead of just watching them. Every little bit adds up to better fitness.
Know your numbers: Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in check is important for good heart health. Learn the optimal levels for your sex and age group. Take steps to reach and maintain those levels. And remember to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor.
Take the scenic route home: Put down your cell phone, forget about the driver who cut you off, and enjoy your ride. Eliminating stress while driving can help lower your blood pressure and stress levels. That’s something your cardiovascular system will appreciate.
Find your happy place: A sunny outlook may be good for your heart, as well as your mood. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, chronic stress, anxiety, and anger can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Maintaining a positive outlook on life may help you heal faster. Last but not the least try to forget and forgive for the sake of your heart.
The article has been authored by Dr. Aziz Kothawala, Cardiologist, Saifee Hospital.