24 September 2011
By, Mansi Kohli
Every year 17.1 million lives are claimed by cardiovascular disease. 80% of them in the developing world. As we inch closer to World Heart Day on September 29th, it's time we recognise the real threat that cardiovascular diseases pose.
This year the theme "One world, one home, one heart" focuses on how the whole world is at risk of cardiovascular diseases and how all countries must join hands to prevent and control the risk of non-communicable diseases together. But tackling this global threat is easier if we work on reducing the risk factors for heart disease at the individual level. The concept of one home helps us understand the need to combat these risk factors in our lives, at home and among our families. The household is the perfect place to start this battle against heart disease. A few changes in our lifestyle can make a huge difference to our heart health.
The heart is the strongest muscle of the body but very vulnerable to outside pressures like smoking, stress, unhealthy eating habits and obesity. There are several risk factors for heart disease. They fall into the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors.
Non-Modifiable risk factors
- Age plays an important role. The older you are the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Your ethnic origin plays an important role.
- Gender also plays a role. Men are at greater risk than pre-menopausal women.
The most common risk factor, this can be prevented or controlled through diet, exercise, weight management and if needed, medication. Dr Ashish Contractor, from the Department of Preventive Cardiology, Asian Heart Institute, says, "High blood pressure, or hypertension is often referred to as the "silent killer. The reason for that is that people often suffer severe problems related to hypertension, without being aware that their pressure is high. It is a common misconception that your systolic BP should be your age plus 100. This is FALSE. A high blood pressure has been defined as either the higher number, called systolic pressure being over 140 or the lower number, called diastolic pressure being over 90. However, your ideal BP should be below 120/80."
If not kept in check Diabetes can lead to heart damage including heart attack and death. Diabetes also needs to be controlled by an alteration in lifestyle and medication as prescribed by the doctor.
Dr Contractor says, "As India is becoming more 'prosperous' so are the waistlines of its citizens. Obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as other complications such as arthritis. A sensible diet, combined with an exercise programme is the best way to lose weight. Crash diets do not work in the long term, and may actually be harmful to the body."
This is the easiest risk factor to avoid and yet for some people it is the hardest. People who do not exercise are at higher risk of heart disease. Most people should exercise for 30 minutes a day in order to avoid the risk of heart disease.
High blood cholesterol:
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is present in the body and is essential for certain functions. However, when there is excess cholesterol in the body, it deposits in the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart and starts the build-up of plaque. "There are different types of cholesterol, but the two most important ones are LDL and HDL. LDL is called 'bad cholesterol', while HDL is the 'good cholesterol.' You should try and keep your LDL levels down and boost up the HDL level," says Dr Contractor.
It is important to eat a heart healthy diet. The diet should be low in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, refined sugars. Including healthy fats like Omega 3s in the diet also keeps the heart healthy. Making simple changes in diet like switching to heart healthy edible oils can make a big difference. The edible oil used for daily cooking should have the least amount of saturated fat. The oil we use should have a balanced mix of the good fats.
Stress: Poorly controlled stress and anger can cause heart disease and stroke. Stress and anger management techniques should be adopted to protect oneself from heart disease.
Whether it is smoking or chewing tobacco, intake of tobacco does increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are different kinds of heart disease and the warning signs can be different too. Some of them are listed below: -
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Hypertensive heart disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Cerebrovascular heart disease
- Inflammatory heart disease