Your heart beats about 2.5 billion times over an average lifetime, pushing millions of litres of blood to every part of your body. Yet, heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide and the leading cause of mortality in India, with a fourth of all deaths attributable to various cardiovascular diseases.
India’s unrelenting heart is at risk and it’s time we took notice. In the past two decades, India has seen an alarming rise in the occurrence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers.
The prevalence of heart disease and stroke has increased by OVER 50% from 1990 to 2016 in India, with an increase observed in every state. The contribution of these diseases to total deaths and disease burden in the country has almost doubled in the past 25 years.
The number of prevalent cases of cardiovascular diseases has increased from 2.57 crore in 1990 to 5.45 crore in 2016. Heart disease now is the leading individual cause of disease burden in India, Ischaemic heart disease being the first and stroke being the fifth leading cause.
What’s worse is the fact these deaths are preventable. Preventing heart disease (and all cardiovascular diseases) means making smart choices now that will pay off the rest of your life.
Lack of exercise, a poor diet and other unhealthy habits can take their toll over the years. Anyone at any age can benefit from simple steps to keep their heart healthy during each decade of life.
Keeping your heart healthy is something you can work on everyday. Making small changes in your habits can make a real difference to your ticker.
You don’t have to work on all 5 steps at once. Even if you improve just one or two of these areas, you can make yourself less likely to get heart disease. Of course, the more tips on this list you follow, the better. So let’s get started!
1. Get moving!
Your heart is a muscle and like any other muscle, needs exercise. It’s a great way to maintain a healthy weight range and lower risk for heart disease.
Research has linked excess belly fat to higher blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid levels. If you’re carrying extra fat around your middle, it’s time to slim down. Eating fewer calories and exercising more can make a big difference. Health experts recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Exercising can lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, it doesn’t always have to be going to the gym or running.
Set realistic goals: You can always begin with small goals like brisk walking most days of the week and then work your way up to the 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week
Keep it moving: Don’t sit for too long, it could shorten your lifespan, warn researchers in the Indian Heart Association.
Couch potato and desk jockey lifestyles seem to have an unhealthy effect on blood fats and blood sugar. If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around. Go for a stroll on your lunch break
Find an activity you enjoy : If you like what you do, you’re more likely to stick to it
We’ve got a few suggestions!
Let Dance: Whether you prefer a bhangra beat or two-step tune, dancing makes for a great heart-healthy workout. It raises your heart rate and gets your lungs pumping. It also burns up to 200 calories or more per hour, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Get the workout between the sheets : That’s right, having sex can be good for your heart. Research shows that a lower frequency of sexual activity is associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
Yoga: Can help you improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. It can help you relax and relieve stress. As if that’s not enough, yoga also has potential to improve heart health. According to research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, yoga demonstrates potential to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Some good ol’ housework: Vacuuming or mopping the floors may not be as invigorating as a Bollywood dance or Zumba class. But these activities and other household chores do get you moving. They can give your heart a little workout, while burning calories too. Put your favourite music on and add some pep to your step while you complete your weekly chores.
Take the stairs: Exercise is essential for good heart health, so why not sneak it in at every opportunity? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park on the far side of the parking lot. Walk to a colleague’s desk to talk, instead of emailing them. Play with your dog or kids at the park, instead of just watching them. Every little bit adds up to better fitness.
Phone a friend: Stay motivated by doing physical activity together with a group of friends or family, or even with your dog.
2. Eat heart-healthy foods
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the top ways you can help prevent heart disease. The foods you eat affect the cholesterol, sugar, sodium and saturated fat levels in your body.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, foods high in fibre, low in sodium, low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol as a great starting point.
If you have a busy schedule, a tiring long day or you eat on the go, keeping up with your daily nutritional needs could be difficult. We suggest Unived’s Daily Supergreens powder. It helps to fill up the gaps in your diet and cancels the early morning hustle to make a healthy drink, helping you become the best version of yourself. It provides 100% RDA of most vitamins in a single scoop.
Healthy eating for a healthy heart is a pattern. It doesn’t focus on one type of food or nutrient, but rather on what you eat over days, weeks and months.
This style of eating is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar. It’s rich in whole grains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats. Read nutrition labels carefully when determining what foods to eat.
Get your vitamins with Unived! It is difficult to obtain vitamins and minerals through our diet, especially Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Vitamin K2-7, Zinc, Magnesium, and other micronutrients such as Boron, Selenium, and Strontium.
Don’t overeat: With plenty of holidays and festivals, there is copious amounts of temptation and fried foods around the corner at all times. Controlling portion size is essential to keep your weight down.
Eat more fruit and vegetables: A diet full of a variety of fruit and vegetables is linked to healthier hearts and a lower risk of heart disease.
Swap to wholegrain: Wholegrain cereals include more of the natural grain. This means they have more nutrients like dietary fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, and healthy fats.
Go nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch of heart-healthy fats, protein, and fibre. Including them in your diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember to keep the serving size small, suggests the AHA. While nuts are full of healthy stuff, they’re also high in calories.
Make healthy fat choices: The best fats to include in your diet are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) fats. You can find these healthier fats in avocados, nuts and sunflower seeds. But the amounts may not be enough to give you the requisite amounts of Omega-3 your body needs. We recommend Unived’s OVEGHA, a vegan omega-3 DHA supplement that supports the healthy functioning of the heart.
Eating too much saturated and trans fat can elevate blood cholesterol levels. Saturated and trans fats can be found in foods like pizza, cakes, biscuits, pastries and deep-fried foods.
Use herbs and spices instead of salt: Eating too much salt is bad for your heart. The sodium in salt can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.
Control your cholesterol: Cholesterol is essential for the normal functioning of your body. There are 2 main types of cholesterol. HDL is the good cholesterol and LDL or the bad cholesterol, that can stick to the walls of your arteries, causing a build-up of cholesterol, known as plaques. This build-up can create blockages in your arteries and contribute to increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. If you have high cholesterol.
Get your cholesterol levels checked, and if you have high cholesterol, follow the advice of your doctor for treatment.
We also recommend using Unived’s Red Yeast Rice supplement, India’s only natural cholesterol management supplement, it is proven to increase HDL and lower LDL and triglyceride levels.
Raise a glass and eat some dark chocolate: Moderate consumption of alcohol can help raise your levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. It can also help prevent blood clot formation and artery damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, red wine in particular may offer benefits for your heart.
Dark chocolate not only tastes delicious, it also contains heart-healthy flavonoids. These compounds help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease, suggest scientists in the journal Nutrients.
3. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is tough. But you know that it’s important to quit, and one of the biggest reasons is that it’s linked to heart disease
According to WHO, smoking kills over one million people in India annually and is the fourth leading cause of non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as cancer and heart diseases, which account for 53% of all deaths in India.
Coronary heart disease risk greatly increases when you smoke. Smoking causes damage to your circulatory system, increasing your risk for hardened arteries and blood clots. The nicotine found in cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen that gets to your heart and raises your blood pressure.
Get educated: The first step to quitting is understanding the risks associated with smoking.
You can find more information here.
Smoking damages the blood vessels leading to your heart, brain and other parts of your body. This makes you four times more likely to die of heart attack or stroke and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death 
Do it now and Keep trying: Quitting smoking isn’t always easy. It can take persistence. You can do it with planning, practice, and help.
Reach out for support: If you’re finding it hard to quit, support is available. Call India’s Quit smoking helpline on 1800-11-2356. You can go to the National Health Portal for more information.
Quit for loved ones: To protect the health of your family and friends, stop smoking inside your home, car and other enclosed places. Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25 to 30 % higher for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work
In fact, smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteTrusted Source (NHLBI), and Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC) all encourage you to quit. It can make a huge difference to not just your heart, but your overall health, too.
4. Don’t stress it
There are more than 1,400 biochemical responses to stress, including a rise in blood pressure and a faster heart rate.
Stress leads to behaviours that increase risks for heart disease. Eating more and exercising less are effects of stress. If you are stressed you may be inclined to drink and smoke more to find a way to release the stress. These are all factors that can lead to heart disease.
If you don’t manage your stress, it can create more stress and trap you in a stress cycle. You need to have your own strategies for chilling out — and keeping your heart happy.
Find a hobby you enjoy: Knit a scarf, put your hands to work to help your mind unwind. Other relaxing hobbies, such as woodworking, cooking, or completing jigsaw puzzles, may also help take the edge off stressful days.
Laugh out loud: Not just in your emails or Facebook posts. Laugh out loud in your daily life. Whether you like watching funny movies or cracking jokes with your friends, laughter may be good for your heart. According to the AHA, research suggests laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD), also known as “good cholesterol.”
Consider pet therapy: Our pets offer more than good company and unconditional love. They also provide numerous health benefits. Studies reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that owning a pet may help improve your heart and lung function. It may also help lower your chances of dying from heart disease.
Take the scenic route home: Put down your cell phone, forget about the driver who cut you off, and enjoy your ride. Eliminating stress while driving can help lower your blood pressure and stress levels. That’s something your cardiovascular system will appreciate.
Brew up a heart-healthy potion: No magic is needed to brew up a cup of green or black tea. Drinking one to three cups of tea per day may help lower your risk of heart problems, reports the AHA. For example, it’s linked to lower rates of angina and heart attacks.
Find your happy place: A sunny outlook may be good for your heart, as well as your mood. According to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, chronic stress, anxiety, and anger can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Maintaining a positive outlook on life may help you stay healthier for longer.
Walk it off: The next time you feel overwhelmed, exasperated, or angry, take a stroll. Even a five-minute walk can help clear your head and lower your stress levels, which is good for your health. Taking a half-hour walk every day is even better for your physical and mental health.
5. Know your numbers
Health screenings are important to help you determine if you are at risk for heart disease.
You can get tested for high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and diabetes. All three of which can lead to heart disease. By getting these screenings regularly, you can identify heart disease risks in their earliest stages.
Learn the optimal levels for your sex and age group and take steps to reach and maintain those levels.
Schedule regular check-ups with your doctor: You can’t feel high blood pressure. That’s why it’s important to get it checked and learn about how to manage it.
If you want to make your doctor happy, keep good records of your vitals or lab numbers, and bring them to your appointments.
A Heart Health Check involves 3 key steps
- Talk to your doctor
Your doctor will start your check by talking with you about your heart disease risk factors.
- Learn about your risk
Once your doctor knows your risk factors, they will enter this information into a web-based calculator to understand your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
- Manage your risk
Depending on your result, your doctor may encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing, or give you advice, information and support to make heart-healthy changes
Learn your family health history: Having a family history of heart disease increases your risk. Talk to your family members about your family’s history of heart disease. Discuss this information with your doctor so that you are better able to assess the risk factors for heart disease.
Know the warning signs for heart attacks: Knowing the warning signs of heart attacks can mean the difference between life or death. Learn the warning signs and symptoms so you can get help right away!
Manage diabetes: People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease than people without. An alarming 2/3 of all people with diabetes will die from heart disease or a stroke . If you have diabetes, keep your blood glucose under control and practice the above tips for preventing heart disease.
Get enough sleep: Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can lead to heart disease. When you sleep at night, your heart rate and blood pressure go down. Sleep deprivation can also lead to type 2 diabetes by causing an increase in insulin resistance.
Key takeaways to prevent heart disease:
- Eat healthy.
- Get active.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation.
- Manage stress.
Products mentioned in the article:
- Benjamin, E., et al., 2017. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 135(10).
- Prabhakaran, D., Jeemon, P. and Roy, A., 2016. Cardiovascular Diseases in India. Circulation, 133(16), pp.1605-1620.
- Prabhakaran, D., et al., 2018. The changing patterns of cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2016. The Lancet Global Health, 6(12), pp.e1339-e1351.
- int. 2020. Tobacco. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco> [Accessed 29 April 2020].
- Information, H., Overview, D., Problems, P., Diabetes, &., Diabetes, a., Center, T. and Health, N., 2020. Diabetes, Heart Disease, And Stroke | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: <https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/heart-disease-stroke> [Accessed 29 April 2020].