Thursday, November 30, 2023

Busting myths around cardiovascular diseases

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Cardiovascular disease, a non-communicable disease is also known as a silent killer. According to the World Health Organization, India reports for one-fifth of the deaths worldwide.

This World Heart Day, let us bust some of the common myths associated with this disease.

Myth #1: Chest pain is the only sign of a heart attack
Not always. although chest pain or discomfort in the chest is a common symptom, one can experience other subtle signs such as nausea, shortness of breath, or discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck, or back. Do not ignore these early symptoms and consult your physician.

Myth #2: Patients with cardiovascular disease should not exercise
Many people are advised to slow down and take it easy once they are diagnosed with a heart-related disease. Whereas, a sedentary lifestyle is perilous. Physical activity strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation keeps it healthy. However, exercise is not advisable for acute heart stroke patients till the healing process for a stipulated time which may range between 4 to 6 weeks. Otherwise, it is advisable to stay active and practice at least 30-45 minutes of light exercise regularly. Engage in strength training and light weights and bands. Initially start with 10 – 15 minutes of exercise and gradually increase by 5 -10 minutes a day. Exercise at least 3 times a week.

Myth #3: Heart Diseases run in the family, thus it’s unavoidable
Almost 90% of the heart diseases are preventable. Distant from each other, one can reduce the occurrence of heart-related ailments. Apart from hereditary factors, lifestyle plays a larger role in heart disease than inheritance. Lifestyle modifications lower the risk factors such as high blood pressure, diet, diabetes, smoking, and work-life imbalance, which should be recognized and controlled to prevent or delay the onset of heart disease. Changing one’s lifestyle, by engaging in exercise, healthy eating habits, and avoiding smoking or excessive alcohol reduces the risk of heart attack by more than 50%.

Myth #4: Cardiovascular diseases are more likely among men than women
Women under the age of 50 are more likely than men of the same age to succumb to a heart attack. The cardiovascular diseases are not gender biased, women are equally susceptible to this disease, the risk of heart-related ailments increase post menopause and if you are undergoing menopause, treatment for breast cancer, depression, endometriosis, and hypertension disorders during pregnancy.

Heart Healthy Diet to Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases
A healthy heart and a balanced diet are the same sides of the coin. Following a heart-healthy diet can lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). Some of the easy-to-follow tips for a heart-healthy diet are:

Limit sodium intake: Watch sodium intake in your daily diet. Do not exceed 2.3 mg/day

Control portion size: Portion size plays a crucial role in a heart-healthy diet. One should watch the quantity and quality of food that goes on the plate. It also helps in avoiding overeating, maintaining a healthy weight, and being mindful of what you are eating. A balanced meal will have all the nutrient values in the required portion

Eat an array of fresh vegetables and fruits: Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with a variety of antioxidants, minerals, and multivitamins that are good for heart and overall health. Binge on fresh fruits and vegetables. Ensure you include a bowl of assorted vegetable salad and fruit in your daily meal

Select whole grains and high protein-based foods: Whole grains are high in fiber. It help in digestion and also play a vital role in cholesterol reduction. It also helps in controlling sugar levels and helps in weight loss.

Limit unhealthy fats and trans fats intake: We need fat in our daily meals, however, all fats are not good for our health. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats that are not good for one’s heart. Avoid consuming deep-fried food on a regular basis. Consume good fats/monosaturated fats like dry fruits, nuts, seeds, and clarified butter.

Treat yourself occasionally.

(The author, Dr. Sanjay Bhat, is a Sr. Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, at Aster CMI Hospital.)

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