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Simple steps to maintain a healthy heart for all ages
25 March 2020
Did you know that sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases your risk of getting your first heart attack by 20%? Or that just 30 minutes of moderate activity daily, such as walking, reduces your risk of a heart attack/stroke, and improves your overall heart health?
This heart awareness month, you and your family don’t have to take big, life-changing steps towards a healthy heart. You simply have to go back to the basics of a healthy life – sleeping enough, indulging in physical exercise and eating right. Here are simple things you and all your family members, irrespective of their age, can do daily for a healthier heart:
1. Don’t smoke (actively or passively)
You already know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. However, the same is true for passive smoking. Passive/Second-hand smoking increases the risk of heart disease by 25 to 30% as inhaling cigarette smoke leads to plaque build-up in the arteries due to certain chemicals. So, try and avoid inhaling smoke as much as you can.
2. Get regular check-ups
Knowing the ideal levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure for your age and sex is imperative in today's times. Your entire family might end up having different optimal levels needed for maintaining good heart health, but regular check-ups can help you stay on top of your health status. You can even purchase health insurance plans such as MaxBupa's Heartbeat family floater plan which includes an annual check-up under its coverage.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can cause a lot of complications, and heart disease happens to be one of them. Excess belly fat especially is linked to unhealthy blood lipid levels and high blood pressure. The experts' suggestion of maintaining a healthy weight involves a balance between eating and exercising right. Cutting down on processed food and refined sugars is usually the first step towards achieving your goals.
4. Enrich your diet
The food you eat directly influences your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and triglycerides levels (a type of fat found in the blood). Try and incorporate the following heart-healthy foods in your diet to stay fit-
Fish or Omega-3 supplements
Legumes like lentils and dried beans
Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach
Dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa)
- Nuts like almonds, peanuts, and walnuts
5. Yoga and meditation
Stress and anxiety are two of the most detrimental things for your heart. Try doing yoga which is all about attaining a mind-body connection and mindfulness. It also has several benefits like increasing your strength, balance and flexibility along with acting as a stress buster. Since it's a low-impact physical activity, it has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease too.
6. Look after your mental health
Mental illnesses like depression have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. After all, your mental and physical health are linked to each other; and it’s important that you look after both. So start talking about feelings and healthy ways to relieve stress and sadness in your family to make a support system for yourself.
7. Maintain oral hygiene
Yes, it may sound odd at first, but studies show that your oral health also has an impact on your heart health. The bacteria that cause gum disease can also spread in your bloodstream and cause complications, increasing the risk of heart disease.
8. Exercise regularly
We have all heard this one before, but exercise really is one of those things you can't do away with. Hence, instead of seeing physical activity as a chore, incorporate it in fun ways. If you like dancing, join a dance class or Zumba. If you love swimming, then get a club membership and take a swim regularly. If you cannot find time for any of your hobbies, then walk! Just thirty minutes of walking daily has several positive benefits for your body that go beyond heart health. Taking the stairs, walking after meals, not sitting for long hours on a stretch – you just have to be mindful about the little things.
9. Get enough sleep
Sleeping less than 6-7 hours on a regular basis is unhealthy. Additionally, sleeping during the day, in breaks instead of in a stretch and oversleeping is also extremely unhealthy. Thus, ensure that you get 7-8 hours of sound sleep every night. Developing a night routine is the best way to make it easier as sleeping and waking up at a fixed time helps your body clock adjust to a new schedule.
Lastly, these simple things add up to a healthy heart that protects you from being a part of the gruesome statistic as about one-third of all global deaths are due to heart disease. When you start to incorporate these healthy habits in your life, you set an example for your family and all your loved ones. So this heart awareness month, take control of your heart health and consequentially, take control of your life.