Heart disease – what’s all the hue and cry about?

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Have you ever wondered, “Why is there such a hue and cry about heart diseases and more so, why is it much more now than a decade or two ago?”

The disease burden

Diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as heart attack, stroke and hypertension, known as cardiovascular diseases, are not only claiming more and more lives across the globe but are also posing an acute threat to the economic development of our subcontinent. While the statistics can make you dizzy, all you need to know is cardiovascular disease is the Number 1 killer disease amongst men and women today. The rising incidence of health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity, combined with harmful behaviors like smoking, alcoholism, unhealthy diet, inadequate physical activity and high stress levels are contributing equally if not more to this health crisis.

Cardiovascular diseases are multifactorial in origin, meaning there are several environmental and biological factors causing them. Though you might not be exactly sure what caused you or your loved one(s) to acquire the disease, you can be very sure of one thing: The lifestyle choices you make on a daily basis play a major role in causing as well as controlling the disease. There is therefore an urgent need to spread awareness about the risk factors and empower people with ways and means to better manage their health.

The risk factors can be broadly classified into modifiable (those that can be modified by us) and non-modifiable (those that our beyond our control) factors.

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Modifiable risk factors

  • Hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol levels)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes (elevated blood sugar levels)
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Psychosocial factors (such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression etc.)

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Hereditary factors (genetic predisposition that runs in families)
  • Ethnicity (racial factors)
  • Age
  • Sex

I personally believe that the non-modifiable risk factors can also be modified but let’s save that for another day.

 

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

You would be surprised if I told you that your diabetes, hypertension and heart condition could be reversed. A healthy lifestyle characterized by regular physical exercise, balanced nutrition, and positive and healthy mindset is the building block for prevention and reversal of all cardiovascular diseases. While medical and surgical interventions are critical, addressing the risk factors by making the necessary changes to your lifestyle will go a long way in improving quality of life and keeping complications at bay.

 

A cardiac rehabilitation program is something you (and your family) should consider if you have had a heart attack, angioplasty or stent procedure, bypass surgery or other heart surgeries. Keep reading my blog entries for more useful info.

The heart-healthy exercise plan

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Can you name the most important muscle in your body? No, it’s not your abs, thigh muscle or arms. It’s your heart!

The human heart is an amazing muscle, capable of pumping about five litres of blood throughout the body every minute—that’s approximately 7,200 litres of blood each day! In fact, the average heart beats about 100,000 times each day, too, which is why it’s so important to have a strong and healthy heart.

And just like you can exercise to build strength in your arm and thigh muscles, you can also train your heart to become stronger, healthier and more efficient at doing its function. The right exercise plan is like strength-training for your heart, which helps it pump more blood with less effort.

The Facts
According to the American Heart Association (AHA),physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is caused by deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the inner lining of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. This build-up makes the arteries narrowed or blocked, and when oxygen-rich blood can’t reach the heart, the result is chest pain or a heart attack. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure.

While CAD is the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the World for both men and women, the good news is that lifestyle changes like exercise can help prevent or treat CAD in most people.

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How to Exercise for a Healthy Heart
Fortunately, it doesn’t take hours in the gym to get the heart-healthy benefits of exercise. As little as 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, most days of the week can substantially reduce your risk of heart disease. Additionally, the habit can help improve your mental well being and manage your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels better.

While previous recommendations have focused mainly on cardio (aerobic) conditioning for heart health, new guidelines developed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the AHA also take into account higher levels of intensity and the benefits that strength training offers your heart. These recommendations are for healthy adults under the age of 65 who want to improve heart health, prevent heart disease, and increase overall well-being.

Cardio (aerobic) exercise guidelines: Perform moderately-intense cardio exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If weight-loss is your goal as well, increase this number up to 60 minutes at a moderate intensity. Moderate intensity is defined by ACSM as a target heart rate range of 55-59% of your maximum heart rate which is roughly the pace where you break a sweat but are still able to carry on a conversation.

Strength training guidelines: Do 8-10 strength-training exercises with 8-12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

For more details about exercise plans contact us at www.cardiacwellnessinstitute.com

Sitting for long hours is best avoided

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People with heart disease who sit for a long time have worse health even if they exercise regularly. Limiting the amount of time we spend on sitting may be as important as the amount we exercise. Sitting, watching television, working at a computer and driving are all sedentary behaviours and we need to take breaks from them.

While regular exercise is key to preventing heart disease, obesity and diabetes, limiting the time we spend not moving during the day has emerged as another important aspect of good health. Long hours of sitting need to be broken up with periodic standing or walking around.

Sitting for long periods of time and not using your muscles will have adverse effects on our body. While a person is sedentary (usually sitting and not active) there is a reduced uptake of glucose and fats, which then affects cholesterol and sugar levels. Breaking up your sedentary time will be beneficial in reducing the risk factors of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. We have to mobilize our muscles to burn oxygen and tap the fuel sources in our bodies. When sitting, there is no weight bearing or stress on the muscles—they aren’t stimulated and energy doesn’t get burned off.

Negative effects of being sedentary may be overcome by regular cardiovascular exercise and also by pushing your exercise limits. Recent research has shown that every extra hour of television viewing per day is associated with increased waist circumference, greater body mass index, and higher systolic blood pressure and triglycerides.

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Keys to Get Moving

  • Get up and move every 30 minutes
  • Stand up during TV commercials or, even better, do light exercises while watching TV
  • Drink lots of water (if your health condition permits) so it forces you to get up to go to the washroom
  • Take lunch breaks outside instead of in front of your work computer, and avoid gadgets while eating
  • Go to bed instead of sitting in front of the TV and get your daily quota of sleep

Monitor your activity patterns to find out when you are most sedentary and replace that with active hobbies