Prevent Heart Disease

How do I Prevent Heart Disease?

Because Prevention is better than any cure any doctor can offer you.

Know your Risk factors

There are two kinds of Risk factors:
1. Risk factors, which can be modified.
2. Risk factors, which cannot be modified.

Risk Factors Which Can Be Modified

Blood Pressure: High blood pressure, which is defined as greater than 140/90 mmHg. Your ideal blood pressure should be 120/80 or below.

Diabetes: If your fasting blood sugar is greater than 126 mg/dl on more than one.

Cholesterol: To keep your risk level low, your total Cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dl, and your HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol) should be above 40 mg/dl.

Smoking: Any amount of smoking or tobacco chewing is a major risk factor for heart disease and cancer.

Risk Factors Which Cannot Be Modified:

Age: Risk of heart disease increases with age. The risk rises sharply for men after the age of 45 and for women after the age 55.

Family History: Your genes play an important role in your chance of having heart disease. If a male member of your immediate family has had heart disease before the age of 55, or if a female family member has had heart disease before the age of 65, your risk is increased several fold.

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Alter the modifiable risk factors

You can reduce the risk of the heart disease by controlling the modifiable Risk factors.

● If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugars under very close control.

● Reduce your sodium intake to no more than 2400 mg of sodium or 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt per day.

● Get your lipid profile, blood sugar levels and BP regularly checked.

● Quit smoking.

Exercise Your Heart

Exercise has been shown to affect all the risk factors for heart disease in a positive manner and is the most powerful and safe ‘medicine’ for your heart.
An easy way to remember the following recommendations is to think of the FIT principle.

  • F is for FREQUENCY of training, which should be 4-6 days a week.
  • I is for INTENSITY, that is, how vigorously should you exercise. To obtain maximum cardiovascular benefit, you should exercise between 55 – 85% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. The lower end of the heart rate range is for older and reconditioned people. If you do not want to actually measure your heart rate, a simple way of monitoring exercise intensity is to use a system called Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE see chart below). Using this, you should exercise at an intensity which you perceive to be between “fairly light” and “somewhat hard”.
  • T is for TIME. The recommended time is 20-60 minutes of continuous or intermittent aerobic exercise. The term “aerobic” exercise, simply means using oxygen for energy. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing and other similar activities.

Safety Tips:

● Warm up before exercising. During the first five minutes, exercise at a slower pace. If you experience              discomfort in the chest, nausea or dizziness, stop exercising and consult your doctor.

● If you have more than 2 risk factors for heart disease, consult your doctor before starting exercise.

● Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Cool down at the end of exercise.

● Do not suddenly stop during exercise; gradually slow down over the last 5 minutes.

Nutrition tips for a healthy heart

Healthy dietary practices are based on one’s overall pattern of food intake over an extended period of time. The goal should be to achieve and maintain a healthy eating pattern that includes foods from each of the major food groups. The suggested percentage of calories from each of the food groups are given in the table below.

Nutrient composition of a Heart healthy diet:

Nutrient Recommended Intake
Saturated Fat < 7% of total calories
Polyunsaturated Fat Upto 10% of total calories
Monounsaturated Fat Upto 20% of total calories
Total Fat 20% - 30% of total calories
Carbohydrates 50% - 60% of total calories
Fibre 20 - 30 g/day
Proteins Approximately 15% of total calories
Cholesterol < 200 mg/day
Total Calories Balance energy intake and expenditure to maintain desirable body weight/prevent weight gain

Principles of a Heart Healthy Diet:

● Eat a variety of foods.

● Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and fibre and      relatively low in calories, and can be consumed in large quantities. Fruit juices tend to be high in calories and    lack fibre, and hence you should eat the fruit rather than have the juice.

● Choose a diet low in saturated fat: Oil should be used sparingly for cooking. It is recommended that not more    than 1 tbsp (1 tbsp = 3 tsp = 15 ml) be used per person per day. Groundnut, soybean, rice bran, mustard          and sunflower are among the healthiest recommended cooking oils.

Foods you can substitute with healthier options:

Food Substitute
Whole eggs Egg whites
Whole milk Skimmed milk
Ice creams Frozen fruit based desserts
Fried foods Baked or steamed foods
Pulses Sprouts
Mayonnaise based salad dressings Yogurt based salad dressings
Coconut chutney Sambar or coriander chutney
Red meat (mutton, beef, organ meat) White meat (chicken and fish)

● Choose a diet low in Cholesterol: Choosing foods with less cholesterol and saturated fat will help lower your      blood cholesterol levels. Foods high in cholesterol include: Egg yolk, organ meat, red meat, shellfish like            prawns and crab, whole milk and cheese.

● Choose a diet high in grams and low in simple sugars: Grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts are good    sources of fibre.

● Eat smaller, More frequent meals: Smaller meals help stave off feelings of starvation, which can lead to binge    eating. It’s also an easy way to get fruits and vegetables into your diet.

● Keep your food low in salt: The simplest way to avoid extra salt is to remove the saltshaker from your dining      table. Foods high in salt include: Pickles, papad, processed foods, baked beans and canned soups.