Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are one of the most common causes for death in India. An estimated 15-20% deaths in India has been attributed to ischemic heart disease and stroke.
CVDs, however, fall under the category of preventable conditions. Lifestyle changes have been shown to drastically reduce the risk for CVDs.
Some of them include:
- Quitting tobacco smoke
- Healthy eating
- Getting enough physical activity
- Managing blood sugar levels
- Managing blood pressure
#1 Quitting smoking
Why: Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart diseases, heart attack, and stroke. Smoking damages organs and causes them to function less normally. It also reduces the levels of high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), increases blood pressure, which in turn leads to stress in the arteries.
How: One of the main ways through which smoking leads to CVDs is that, it causes build up of fat in the arteries. This hardens them up- a condition called atherosclerosis.
Interesting fact: The effects of quitting smoking are almost dramatic:
- Blood pressure decreases
- Circulation improves
- Oxygen supply to organs increase
#2 Nutrition and Diet
Why: As though we have not mentioned this enough number of times already. Ensuring a balanced diet containing essential nutrients and minerals in the appropriate portions reduces the risk for CVDs even in individuals who are genetically predisposed.
How: Stick to the basics:
- Avoid processed food/junk food
- Include plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens in your diet
- Switch to snacking on unsalted seeds and dry fruits.
- Include fatty fish in your regular diet if you can
Focus on how many calories you need per day and look for healthy ways to fulfill them. Avoid foods that contain high quantities of sugar and salt, alcohol, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
#3 Regular exercising
Why: Staying active helps maintain blood pressure and body weight within the optimal range. Mayo Clinic recommends 30-60 minutes of physical activity everyday. It does not mean that you need to sweat it out in the gym. A brisk walk, light exercises, or yoga also helps.
How: Start by getting your body mass index measured. That can be a good starting point to set your own weight loss goals.
#4 Managing blood sugar
Why: Individuals who already have high blood sugar have a higher risk for CVDs. Diabetes, when left untreated can have damaging effects on multiple organs in the body. We have already discussed some of the effective ways to tackle blood sugar in an earlier newsletter. In case you missed it, you can access it again here.
How: If you have high blood sugar levels, and want to prevent CVDs:
- Start by getting regular health check-ups from your doctor
- Eating a healthy diet
By following the basic rules of health, you can control the effects of diabetes.
#5 Lowering blood pressure
Why: Hypertension was dealt with in detail a few emails back. Managing blood pressure and maintaining it at optimum levels reduces the risk for heart diseases.
How: Hypertension can be managed by ensuring:
- Proper diet
- Daily exercises
- Weight management
- Avoiding stress
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting salt intake
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Blood pressure management requires close monitoring and sometimes medication. Ensure that you are on top of your diet and exercise regime for an added benefit.