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The hardest working organ in our body is our heart! It pumps over 5 litres of blood throughout the body every minute. It is a part of our cardiovascular system (CVS) which also consists of blood vessels and blood. World Heart Day is celebrated on September 29th every year with the aim to create awareness to prevent heart diseases by making heart-healthy choices.
Major functions of our cardiovascular system
- Transports gases, hormones and nutrients around the body
- Removes the waste products of metabolism
- Protects the body against infection
- Helps regulate and maintain body temperature
- Maintains fluid balance within the body
What increases your risk of getting a CVD?
Diseases concerning heart and blood vessels come under a common term, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and include coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease and stroke.
Smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, regular alcohol intake, obesity, diabetes, family history of heart disease, and age are some major risk factors that increase your likelihood of getting a cardiovascular disease.
Unhealthy diet, amount of your alcohol intake and stress levels may also influence your risk of getting a heart disease.
Control risk factors to prevent heart ailments
To reduce your risk of heart disease you should try to control the risk factors by making lifestyle changes. If you have any type of CVD, you can prevent it from getting worse by following a healthy lifestyle.
1. Watch what you eat
A healthy diet is a must to lower your risk of CVD. Healthy food choices should be practised. Follow these diet tips:
- Choose the quantity and quality of the food you eat. Take larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium, refined, processed or fast foods.
- Consume fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to protect against CVD.
- Limit or avoid your usage of saturated fat (red meat, dairy products, coconut oil) and trans fat (deep fried, packaged snack foods, bakery products).
- Consume healthy fats from plant-based sources, such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil
- Several servings of fish like Salmon or mackerel in a week can decrease your risk of heart attack.
2. Quit Smoking
Chemicals in tobacco can damage your circulatory system and increase your blood pressure. Passive smoking is no safe and increases the risk of heart disease as well. Quitting smoking will reap the following health rewards:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- When you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops almost to that of a non-smoker in about 5 years.
- After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s risk.
3. Get physically active
A 60-minute moderate intensity physical activity per week can be good for your heart health and lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases. You can try out various activities at home or work:
- A 30-minute brisk walk per day is one of most effective form of physical activity for a good heart health.
- Two and a half hours of swimming per week can give you all the aerobic heart health benefits you need and also keep your blood pressure normal.
- Strength training under supervision can help in increasing muscle mass which improves heart and lung function and reduce chances of heart disease and other conditions before they set in.
4. Aim for a healthy weight
Being overweight can increase the risk high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes which are direct risk factors for CVD. Maintaining a BMI (Body Mass Index) below 25 and keeping your waist circumference normal is the best way to stay physically fit.
- If you are overweight, a 5 to 10 percent weight reduction can help in reducing your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Men should aim to keep their waist circumference below 40 inches and women below 35 inches.
- Reduction in calorie intake by eating smaller portions and choosing low-calorie foods along with an increase in physical activity can help you in weight reduction.
5. Get a good sleep
Lack of a quality sleep can increase the risk of high BP, heart attack and obesity. Try to get between six to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Make a sleep schedule, stick to it and try out ways which help you sleep easier.
- If you snore loudly or wake up several times while sleeping or gasp for air in your sleep or get up with a headache, sore throat or dry mouth, immediately consult your doctor.
Work towards a healthy lifestyle by following these tips. Also, try to keep yourself stress-free and go for regular health screenings to know your cholesterol levels, diabetes and blood pressure health. This heart day, take the first step to please your heart and get rewarded with a healthy and disease-free body.
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1. World Health Federation. Accessed Sep 28, 2015
2. World Health Organization. Accessed Sep 25, 2015
3. Nation Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed Sep 28, 2015