8 Lifestyle Changes To Protect Your Heart
Prevention is always better than cure especially when it comes to your heart. World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29th September. In 2018, world heart day informs people around the world about the actions that individuals can take to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Here is what you can do.
1) Avoid food containing trans-fat
Trans-fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. This partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, so food made with it has a longer shelf life. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers, because it does not have to be changed as often as other types of oil. Trans-fat is found in a variety of food products, including: baked goods, pies, wafer, donuts, cookies, chips, creamers, margarine, and fried food. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat both raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fat increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and appears to have no known health benefits. Experts recommend keeping your intake of trans fat as low as possible. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization recommends that total trans-fat intake should be limited to less than 2.2 gram per day or 0.5 gram per serving. It is interesting to note that high trans-fat consumption is responsible for increased incidence of coronary artery diseases in young people.
2) Regular exercise especially workouts that burn fat
Your heart rate can help you measure the intensity of your exercise. When you work out in your fat-burning heart rate zone, the idea is that your body taps into fat stores for energy instead of using basic sugars and carbohydrates. This leads to fat loss. Fat-burning heart rate is at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the maximum number of times your heart should beat during activities. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 20-year-old’s maximum heart rate is 220 minus 20 — or 200 beats per minute. To enter the fat-burning zone, the heart rate should be 70 percent of 200, which is about 140 beats per minute. You should perform the exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
3) Getting good sleep
Sleep seems to be such a serene way to replenish energy and restore the mind. You should sleep 6-8 hours a day and there should be 30-50 minutes of deep sleep per night. During this stage, heart rate (40-60 beats per minute) and breathing slows and your muscles relax to the point where you barely move. Deep sleep is necessary for your body to repair itself and recharge for the next day. It is also where the release of growth hormones occurs.
Most dreaming occurs during deep sleep stage, since your brain is more active. Improving sleep depends on what is causing the problem. For some people, it involves adopting better sleep habits. If you or someone close to you is not sleeping well because of snoring, a visit to the doctor may be helpful. If your sleep difficulties do not improve through good sleep hygiene, you may want to consult a specialist.
4) Dealing with stress
Everyone feels stress in different ways and reacts to it differently. How much stress you experience and how you react to it can lead to a wide variety of health problems. Stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risks especially when losing someone you love. Sometimes an individual experiences intense sadness and this affects heart health. Research shows that mortality of a person with cardiovascular diseases is 2-3 times higher than normal during the first month after a loved one dies. If a person is having depression, the risk of heart disease is increased to 1.5-2 times. Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health. Exercising, maintaining a positive attitude, not smoking, not drinking too much coffee, enjoying a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are good ways to deal with stress.
5) Diabetes and high cholesterol
Having diabetes and high cholesterol means that you are more likely to develop heart disease and have a greater chance of a heart attack or a stroke. These two conditions lead to vascular diseases. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.
In people with diabetes, heart muscles contract less than normal. Therefore, controlling blood sugar is very important. Normal blood sugar levels are between 70-100 mg/dL. If the blood sugar is more than 100 mg/dL, there is a risk of diabetes.
Having high levels of fat in your blood can lead to fatty deposits in the blood vessels in the body, including the coronary arteries (the blood vessels which supply the heart muscle with blood). This leads to the narrowing or hardening of the coronary arteries. Blood cholesterol level should be under 200 mg/dL. LDL (bad lipid) and should be around 100-129 mg/dL in normal people or less than 70 mg/dL for those with heart or blood vessel diseases. Ways to reduce your lipid levels are eat less fat, exercise regularly, stop smoking, and avoid food containing trans-fat.
6) Do not start smoking and quit smoking the soonest
The chemicals in cigarettes harm your heart in many ways. Smoking increases the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, which includes coronary heart disease and stroke. WHO shared that smoking causes 1 of every 4 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Smoking increases chances of heart attack by 10 times. There is carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that enters your lungs and then your bloodstream. It steals oxygen from your red blood cells, so less of it gets to your organs and tissues. It also makes your artery walls hard and stiff, which can put you on the path to a heart attack. Moreover, smoking may also boost irregular heartbeat.
7) Eating fish helps your heart
Fish contains unsaturated fatty acids, which, when substituted for saturated fatty acids such as those in meat, it may lower your cholesterol. However, the main beneficial nutrient appears to be omega-3 fatty acid in fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that may reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart diseases and strokes. Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and therefore the most benefit. If you do not like fish, fish oil supplements can be a good substitute (<2g/day). However, you should consult a doctor before taking any supplement.
8) Strong relationships benefits heart health
Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. People who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. Therefore, during holidays, choose activities that are most likely to bring joy to you and the people you care about. Delegate or discard tasks that eat into your time, or do them together with family or friends.
Another thing that you can do to protect your heart is having a heart check-up including all structures, muscles, valves, and vascular. If you are young and do not have any risk factors such as diabetes, high lipids, high blood pressure, your risks of heart disease is low. If you are older than 40 years, having an annual heart check-up is important in order to keep your heart healthy for a long time.
Dr. Anusith Tunhasiriwet, a cardiologist, Bangkok heart hospital