Why it is important than ever to care for your heart till COVID-19 is around
Work from home has led to the lack of exercise, unhealthy eating patterns, weight gain, social deprivation, and health comorbidities
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has evoked us to think about our lifestyles and diet patterns. With frequent lockdowns and restrictions on travel, our mobility has primarily been restricted. The hype and fear of psychosis has affected us to such an extent that most of us, especially the elderly, have confined ourselves to home for an extended period. The regular visits to the doctor and regular health check-ups for the vulnerable population have primarily been affected severely impacting the health. The pandemic has also affected the mental well-being of many as people stay at home and avoid social gatherings and social interactions.
Most of the working population has been confined to home as work from home becomes the new normal. Work from home has led to the lack of exercise, unhealthy eating patterns, weight gain, social deprivation, and health comorbidities. Recently, we heard cases of young celebrities succumbing to heart attacks. Thus, the question remains how to maintain a healthy regime amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related keep your heart healthy and fit? Here are some healthy tips for you which can be practiced on a day-to-day basis to keep your heart healthy.
Consume a healthy heart diet
Healthy eating is a pattern and doesn't focus on one type of food or nutrient, but instead on what we eat over a long term over days, months, or years together. A healthy eating style is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugar. Healthy foods are rich in whole grains, fibre, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats. A healthy heart diet primarily includes:
• Consuming a variety of fruit and vegetables in your day-to-day food. Eating fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and healthier hearts
• Wholegrain cereals contain more nutrients like dietary fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Eating wholegrain food instead of processed food helps to keep you and your heart healthy
• The best fats to include in the diet are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) fats. These forms of healthy fats are abundant in avocados, nuts, fish, and sunflower seeds
• Taking more salt in the diet increases the chance of developing hypertension, a significant risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, salts should be avoided as high salt-containing food like preserved and processed foods
Remain active and indulge in exercises regularly
Doing moderate-intensity exercise daily not only reduces the risk of developing cardiac disease but also reduces high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight. These all together reduce the chances of developing heart disease. In addition, regular exercise positively affects psychological well-being apart from strengthening the bones and muscles. If possible, do the physical activity together with a group of your friend or family. It will keep you motivated. Even if you are in a home or office, move more frequently; people with the habit of sitting for a prolonged period have an increased risk of heart disease. It is better to move frequently than to be entirely passive for a longer duration. Start with small, realistic goals and work your way up to the recommended 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) on most days of the week.
Give up tobacco consumption
Smoking increases the risk of dying from a heart attack four times more than the average population and might also lead to sudden cardiac death. Smokers are at a three-fold higher risk of getting cardiac ailments as compared to non-smokers as smoking damages the blood vessel leading to the heart, brain, and other body parts. However, quitting smoking gradually normalizes the risk over the years. Quitting smoking isn't always easy and can be done with planning, practice, persistence and help. If you are finding it hard to stop, reach out for support available in most hospitals. Passive smoking is equally detrimental to health, and to protect the health of your family and friends, stop smoking inside your home, car, and other enclosed places.
Keep your cholesterol levels in control
Cholesterol is an essential ingredient of our body, required for the normal functioning of the body. There are two main types of cholesterol: high--density lipoprotein: HDL or 'good cholesterol' and low--density lipoprotein: LDL or 'bad cholesterol. 'Bad cholesterol' can stick to the walls of your arteries, causing a build-up of cholesterol, known as plaques causing the blockage in our arteries leading to heart attack and stroke. Overeating saturated and trans-fat can elevate blood cholesterol levels.
Saturated and trans fats can be found in pizza, cakes, biscuits, pastries, and deep-fried foods. Fresh foods should make up the central part of your diet. Choose a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and various healthy protein sources, including fish and seafood, lean meat, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is essential to get cholesterol levels checked up and keep them under control. It can be done with the help of diet, exercise, and medication as advised by your doctor.
Monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar
High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, chances of high blood pressure increase with age. So, get your blood pressure checked up regularly. If it is high, you need to take cion to troll it with help from your doctor. Diabetes is one of the significant risk factors of heart disease and stroke and one needs to take care of it suffering from diabetes. The doctor usually prescribes some antidiabetic medication along with advice for diet and exercise specific to the condition. Adhere to your doctor's advice and make sure your blood sugar remains under reasonable control.
The author is Director and Unit Head, Cardiology and Electrophysiology, Fortis Shalimar Bagh
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