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Preventing heart attacks: Here are some lifestyle changes that could make a difference

heart


Kashmir’s young are dying a slow death. Heart attacks have become rampant in the valley.

This year itself, six back to back young patients with heart attacks were reported to Government Superspecialty Hospital, Srinagar on March 28 indicating the epidemic of heart disease in the valley.

 

Dr. Syed Maqbool, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Government Superspeciality hospital Srinagar said there are some key factors which cause heart attacks in young patients especially those who are less than 60-year-old.

“First, 80 percent of them are smokers. Also, many of them have a strong family history of heart disease,” he said.

He pointed to several other important reasons behind heart disease. “Third reason is Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH, a genetic disorder characterized by high cholesterol levels, which can result in early cardiovascular disease in young patients. The incidence of this disease is one in five hundred. So it indicates a good number of people can get affected by it,” Dr. Maqbool said.

Another major contributor is the reduced physical activity levels of people. “A physically active body ensures that even increased fatty acids are managed and used up for energy. However, if not active, then the rate of plaque formation is increased, which leads to a further increase in heart attacks and strokes,” he said, adding, “increasing waistlines” are an indicator of future heart disease and heart attacks.

“Changes should be made to manage obesity so that heart disease can be controlled,” Dr. Maqbool said.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death across the globe, claiming an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. Out of all the deaths caused due to heart-related complications, 85 percent are due to heart attack and stroke.

Nestled between the rib cages and lungs, our heart is about the size of a clenched fist and weighs between 300 and 450 g. The muscular organ has the crucial task to pump blood to all the parts of the body. The blood pumped by the heart provides our body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function.

A person suffers from a heart attack when one or more coronary arteries are blocked. This happens over time due to a buildup of fatty deposits from substances called plaques. The blockage can narrow the arteries and make it harder for the heart to pump the blood to other parts of the body leading to a heart attack.

Here are some common lifestyle changes you can make to prevent it

The first and foremost thing is your diet. A well-balanced and a nutritious diet can be the best way to fight heart diseases and other chronic health issues. The kind of foods you have regularly can spike your cholesterol level, blood pressure, and blood sugar level, all these things together can affect the normal functioning of your heart and over time can lead to a heart attack. Fill your plate with healthy and nutritious food, rich in vitamins and minerals. Limit the intake of unhealthy fat, refined food products, and processed food.

People of all age groups need to stay active to live a long and disease-free life. Staying active does not mean that you have to get yourself an expensive gym membership. You just have to ensure that you are not lying sedentary most of the time of the day. Whether you engage more in household chores, prefer to go out for a walk, or go for a jog. You just need to keep moving. If possible, include cardiovascular exercise in your routine. Such exercises strengthen your heart muscles.

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart diseases. Persistent high blood pressure can damage the arteries by making them less elastic. It decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and eventually leads to a heart attack. Even low blood pressure can lead to a heart attack. So, you must monitor your heart rate regularly and take the necessary steps to keep it constant.

Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing diabetic heart diseases. High blood sugar levels or unmanaged blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels. Studies suggest that about 68 percent of people aged above 65 and suffering from diabetes die from a heart attack. Monitor your blood sugar level twice a week and eat low glycemic index food to keep your blood sugar level in control.

Cholesterol is a type of lipid made from part fat and part protein. Our body requires it to build healthy cells and keep us warm. But excess bad cholesterol can start depositing in your arteries. It narrows the walls of the blood vessel and our heart has to put extra pressure to pump blood and oxygen to different parts of the body. Too much pressure increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Our mental health and our physical well-being are linked with each other. When you are mentally calm your body has to face the repercussions. Too much stress increases the activity in an area of the brain linked to processing emotions, increasing the risk of developing heart diseases like heart attack and stroke. Try to manage your stress level by practicing yoga and meditation.

Research suggests that most overweight and obese people are prone to a heart attacks as compared to others. That’s because being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol level, both are major contributors to cardiovascular diseases. Try to manage your weight and for that eat healthy, exercise and follow healthy lifestyle habits.

Chain-smoking can put you at the risk of developing heart diseases. Cigarettes can increase your blood sugar level, lead to weight gain, and may lead to a heart attack. If you smoke regularly, try to cut it down to live a long and healthy life.

Apart from the above-mentioned factors your age, sex, race, and family history can also increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. It is hard to prevent heart attack, all you can do is follow a healthy lifestyle to cut down the chances.

(Hirra Azmat covers health at The Kashmir Monitor. Email: [email protected])