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How to live a heart-healthy lifestyle

Many young and middle-aged people today are dying of sudden heart attacks. Studies show that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) strike Indians a decade earlier compared to their Western counterparts.

Why is this happening? How can we prevent it? Are we just focused on post-heart attack rehab? Or should we be focused more on prevention?Advertisement

You don’t get a heart attack because you didn’t consume pumpkin seeds or goji berries. It’s because you have a poor lifestyle. Cholesterol is not the culprit, inflammation is.

Many people believe that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are culprits behind their heart attacks. The main reasons behind most heart attacks is actually inflammation and oxidative damage in the heart, blood vessels, endothelial lining, arteries, and more. While maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important, we cannot blame heart attacks on cholesterol levels alone.

What, then, can you do to keep inflammation in check and your heart strong? Adopt simple lifestyle changes.Advertisement

1) Switch from cheap substandard cooking oils to cold-pressed oils

Refined oils are highly inflammatory and a threat to your heart. Using refined oils just to save some money isn’t a wise idea. Choose the right quality and quantity of oil to boost your heart health. It might cost you a few extra bucks, but remember, your health is not a cost but an investment.

2) Switch from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one

Even if you don’t engage in a full-fledged workout, just stay active. Walking and yoga are the most effective exercises. Choose fun workouts that you enjoy — dancing, aerobics, Zumba, swimming, whatever it is, but keep that body moving. People who live a sedentary lifestyle are at high risk of heart attacks. Having said that, over-working out with little or no rest or recovery period is equally harmful. So, figure out the adequate level of activity your body needs and stick to it.

3) Don’t take matters to your heart

Before renting out your heart space and mind space to a person, event or experience, ask yourself if it is worth it. While stress is inevitable, what sets a happy person apart from a stressed person is their capacity to diffuse and navigate stress and see things in a positive light. You can continue attending stress management classes and workshops, and while all of them can help you feel better for some time, the real change happens when you start changing your perspective towards life and how you relate to stress. Learn to accept and let go. Build your self-worth, create a beautiful inner world, reflect inwards, and allow these teachings to slip into your daily living.

4) Fix your sleep routine

There is nothing cool about pulling an all-nighter to work or socialise more. Your body only cares about survival. Remember, your sleep is your heart’s free drug. The chronic deprivation of sleep can increase your risk of a heart attack. Your heart is a muscle that needs recovery. Lack of sleep increases your insulin resistance and makes you more prone to Type 2 diabetes and a gamut of metabolic conditions. So, adopt a fixed sleeping schedule and sleep deep.

5) Address sleep apnea

Eighty five per cent of people with sleep apnea do not even know they have it. This causes a lot of sleep apnea to go untreated — and untreated sleep apnea is dangerous. It can lead to sudden heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and blood clots (pulmonary embolism). Besides using a CPAP or BiPAP machine, which is beneficial, also focus on losing belly fat, singing, chanting and engaging in regular breathing exercises.

We cannot wait for more unfortunate incidents to realise the importance of lifestyle and start prioritising it. We must wake up and work towards prevention. Many of us may go through heart disease later in life, no matter how well we exercise or eat clean. So, identify risk factors and work towards tackling them. Even if one of your risk factors is genetic predisposition and there is nothing you can do about it, you can still alter your lifestyle. Our intelligent human body was designed to fix and heal itself. The least we can do is invest in it and help it do its job effectively. Lifestyle can help you bridge this gap.

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