The theme of 2017 is “Share the power”. The theme emphasizes that the key to a healthy heart is: Know your heart, move your heart, love your heart and fuel your heart.
Prof. Upendra Kaul, interventional cardiologist
World Heart Day is an annual event that falls on September 29. This day is used as an educative occasion to make people aware of their responsibilities to overcome the global epidemic of heart disease.
The theme of 2017 is "Share the power". The theme emphasizes that the key to a healthy heart is: Know your heart, move your heart, love your heart and fuel your heart.
Heart disease related to heart attacks, angina and related illnesses is one of the commonest causes of death, disability and hours at work lost in most communities.
The incidence of heart diseases is increasing steadily and younger people are getting serious illnesses related to blockages of coronary arteries.
The emphasis should be put on three preventive strategies to keep the heart healthy.
Regular exercise (about 30 minutes of physical exercise every day)
Consumption of heart healthy diet (rich in vegetables and low in animal fats)
Cessation of tobacco use
In addition consultation with your doctor to know the status of your heart from time to time
Benefits of regular exercise
An inactive life style, sedentary habits and lack of regular exercise increase one's risk of getting a major cardio-vascular problem like a heart attack.
In addition such a life style makes one prone to getting diabetes and high blood pressure.
Aerobic exercises done regularly lead to a healthy life and reduce risk of major cardiac illnesses.
Physical activity is a medium for fitness and good health. Exercise not only helps to fight heart disease, but for sedentary people, just adding a little exercise to the daily routine reduces the risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, depression, anxiety and stress.
The greatest benefit from physical activity is seen in people who formerly did no activity and then start to do activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and yogic exercises.
The benefits are:
1. Strengthening heart and blood vessels.
2. Improving blood circulation and leading to better oxygen utilization.
3. Lowering blood pressure
4. Reducing body fat and bad cholesterol levels, and increasing good cholesterol levels.
5. Reducing stress and anxiety
6. Making one feel relaxed and rested
7. Improving sleep
8. Making one fit and healthy.
Heart healthy diet
Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories, rich in dietary fiber and contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.
Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in a cool place or a refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your sitting room, so that you will remember to eat it.
Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredient.
Consuming five to six servings of seasonal fruits or vegetables per day is highly recommended.
One should avoid coconut, deep fried vegetables, and fruits in cream or heavy syrups.
Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. You can be more adventurous and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain wheat, unpolished red rice and even barley.
Another easy way to add whole grains to your diet is ground flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your total blood cholesterol.
You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoonful of them into yogurt, applesauce or hot cereal. One should avoid biscuits, muffins, cakes, white bread, white refined flour and buttered popcorn.
What about Cholesterol:
Despite previous medical and pharmaceutical consensus, new studies are showing that dietary cholesterol may actually prevent inflammation in the blood vessels, which is the main cause of heart attacks. It also prevents blood clots formation, supports the immune system and prevents disease-causing mutations in cells.
Recently, there has been a lot of re-thinking, regarding the role of dietary cholesterol in causing vascular diseases like heart attacks, angina and strokes.
Dietary cholesterol in any case does not contribute to more than 20% to the blood cholesterol levels. Liver is the organ which makes most of it and if dietary intake is very low liver will have to produce more to supplement it.
Elevated serum levels of cholesterol are a symptom of the underlying problem in the body and not the cause of the problem, which is inflammation.
Cholesterol is sent to the artery to heal the inflammation. If it is successful, everything returns to normal.
The real cause of inflammation is high levels of insulin, a reaction to excess carbohydrate/refined sugar consumption that creates heightened blood sugar spikes. Trans-fats and industrially processed vegetable seed oils also cause an additive effect in causing inflammation. A diet high in antioxidants (vegetables and fruits) and low in carbohydrates will reduce factors of oxidation in the body.
Eggs and freshly procured red meat are not friendly foods. The processed meats and food products by virtue of high content of salt and trans-fatty acids are injurious to arterial walls by producing inflammation.
In this regard some of the foods and snacks like samosas, biscuits with various flavors, cakes, colas and soft drinks with their high sugar content are the real culprits.
Cereals and breads made out of full grain without any polishing are good foods and are highly recommended carbohydrates.
Colored vegetables and fresh seasonal fruits (green, yellow and red) and nuts (walnuts, almonds and peanuts) can be taken in unlimited amounts.
These not only supplement calories and reduce hunger but by virtue of high content of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants reduce inflammation which is the main culprit.
Saturated fats provide integrity to the cell membrane and enhance the body's ability to assimilate essential fatty acids. They protect liver and is a preferred food for heart and brain. They do not lead to heart disease.
Heart healthy cooking media are: olive oil, mustard oil or canola oil, sunflower oil safflower oil.
Smoking and heart disease
Smoking is clearly one of the most important and preventable causes of heart disease.
Contrary to the prevalent belief that smoking only leads to chronic bronchitis and in some instances lung cancer, it is actually the most important, cause of premature heart attacks.
In a study published in the American Heart Journal (1986), it was present as a risk factor in 76% of patients below the age of 40 years who had suffered a heart attack.
Smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis - a build-up of fatty substances in the arteries. Atherosclerosis occurs when the normal arterial lining deteriorates, the walls of the arteries thicken and deposits of fat and plaque block the flow of blood through the arteries.
In coronary artery disease, the arteries that supply blood to the heart become severely narrowed, decreasing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, especially during times of increased activity.
Extra strain on the heart may result in chest pain (angina pectoris) and other symptoms. When one or more of the coronary arteries are completely blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle) may occur.
All forms of smoking are equally bad; in fact, smoother and more refined forms may be more dangerous, since there is a tendency for deeper inhalations and the toxins reach the blood in higher concentrations, leading to more damage. Every form of tobacco smoke has multiple poisons, including addictive nicotine, carbon monoxide, ‘tars' and hydrogen cyanide. In addition, there are 4,000 other chemicals of varying toxicity, including 43 known carcinogens.
Cigarette smoke does not just affect smokers. When you smoke, the people around you are also at risk for developing health problems, especially children. Environmental tobacco smoke (also called passive smoke or second-hand smoke) affects people who are frequently around smokers.
Second-hand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer and heart disease. People exposed to second-hand smoke have in excess of 90% risk of having a heart attack.
Why is smoking lethal (scientific facts)
Decreased oxygen to the heart and to other tissues in the body
Decreased exercise tolerance
Decreased HDL (good) and increased LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Increased blood pressure and heart rate
Damage to cells that line coronary arteries and other blood vessels
Increased risk of developing peripheral artery disease and stroke
Increased risk of developing lung cancer, throat cancer, chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
Increased risk of developing diabetes
Increase tendency for blood clotting
Increased risk of spasm of the arteries.
Periodic Consultation with your doctor:
In addition to the preventive strategies mentioned above it is always desirable to see your family doctor periodically to get yourself evaluated for blood pressure, blood sugar level and cholesterol levels.
Persons more than 35 to 40 years of age, especially with a family history of heart disease need to have investigations like an ECG and exercise test and any other tests recommended by your doctor. Prevention is always the best strategy.