Heart disease continues to be a leading cause of death across the world. Heart problems are a major cause of concern for people of all age groups, and the question that comes to everyone's mind is what can we do to ensure good heart health? When it comes to playing our part, the positive news is that many of its risk factors are manageable or preventable through lifestyle changes and medical interventions. In this article, we will explore the top five risk factors for heart disease and discuss how you can address them to promote heart health. To observe World Health Day 2023 on September 29, Dr. Sanjat Chiwane, Director - Cardiology, Max Hospital, Gurgaon, has shared his inputs regarding the risk factors for heart disease and how we need to address them.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major contributor to heart disease. It puts stress on the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. To manage high blood pressure, you can do the following things:
- Monitor your blood pressure regularly: Knowing your numbers is the first step. If your blood pressure is consistently high, then you must consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
- Adopt a heart-healthy diet: Be very mindful of your diet. Reduce sodium intake, eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Also, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Exercise regularly: Keep yourself physically active. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to help lower blood pressure.
- Take prescribed medications: If lifestyle changes aren't making any difference, you might be prescribed medication to manage hypertension.
High Cholesterol Levels
Increased levels of cholesterol, particularly LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, can lead to a buildup of plaque in arteries, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. To address high cholesterol, you must:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Include foods in your diet that can lower cholesterol, like oatmeal, nuts, and fatty fish. Avoid consuming trans fats and limit the consumption of saturated fats.
- Exercise regularly: Being physically active can help raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is beneficial for heart health.
- Take prescribed medications: If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your healthcare provider may recommend medication that can help in lowering cholesterol.
- Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease. It damages blood vessels, reduces oxygen in the blood, and increases the risk of blood clots. To address this problem, you must:
- Quit smoking: If you're already smoking, then try quitting. If you're unable to do it on your own, then you can seek support from healthcare professionals, support groups, or smoking cessation programs.
- Avoid secondhand smoke: Try to avoid passive smoking. Stay away from environments where you are exposed to others' smoke.
- People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease because of elevated blood sugar levels that can damage blood vessels and nerves. To address diabetes-related heart disease risk:
- Manage blood sugar: Keep monitoring your blood glucose levels as directed by your healthcare provider and follow a diabetes management plan.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet, engage in regular physical activity, and manage stress to help control diabetes.
Obesity and Physical Inactivity
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease, as excess weight strains the heart and can lead to conditions like diabetes and hypertension. A sedentary lifestyle compounds these risks. To address obesity and physical inactivity:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Have a balanced diet and do regular exercise to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Get moving: Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine; At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
- Consider professional guidance: Consult with a healthcare provider or nutritionist for personalized weight management advice.
Heart disease remains a major public health concern, but it is often preventable and manageable by addressing these top five risk factors. Remember, taking steps to promote heart health today can lead to a longer and healthier life tomorrow.