Managing Heart Health

Doctor holding heart in hands, medical concept

Dr Naresh Trehan
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes heart attack and stroke, is the world’s number one killer, causing 17.5 million deaths each year, with the figure expected to rise to 23 million by 2030. The good news is that many cases of CVD can be prevented with some lifestyle changes.
About Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death and disability in the world today: over 17.5 million people die from cardiovascular disease every year.
Any disease of the heart, vascular disease of the brain, or disease of the blood vessel constitutes a cardiovascular disease. The most prevalent cardiovascular diseases include coronary heart disease (e.g. heart attack) and cerebrovascular disease (e.g. stroke). Controlling key risk factors such as diet, physical activity, tobacco use, and blood pressure may reduce your risk for CVD.
The rise in heart diseases have been attributed to an array of factors such as ageing, genetics, gender, diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and stress pertaining to changing lifestyles, and rapidly evolving socio-economic determinants like access to health care.
Reportedly, the cases of heart disease in India in 2016 was predicted to be three times the number reported in 2000 with an estimated 2.7 crore young Indians losing their lives to coronary heart diseases.
Get to know your heart:
Book a visit to your doctor to know how healthy your heart is and any lifestyle changes that you need to make. It’s a good idea to find out your blood pressure, which is the number one risk factor for CVD and known as the “silent killer” because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many are unaware that they have it. Also have your blood glucose levels checked as high blood glucose could indicate diabetes, which if left undiagnosed and untreated can also put you at a higher risk of CVD and stroke. Also, check your cholesterol levels, weight, and body mass index (BMI) to help ensure your heart is healthy.
Eat heart-healthy food
Aim to include five portions of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet, with each portion equivalent to around a handful of fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit and vegetables. Avoid processed and pre-packaged foods which are often high in fat, sugar, and salt, and try to make your own healthy meals for lunch at school or work. Cut down on sugary fruit juices and drink water instead, and keep your alcohol intake within recommended guidelines.
Kick the habit
Stopping smoking is the single best thing anyone can do to improve their heart health. Within two years of quitting the risk of CVD is significantly reduced, and within 15 years it returns to that of a non-smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of heart disease in those around you, so by quitting you’ll also help improve the health of friends and family. If you’re struggling to kick the habit don’t suffer in silence, seek out the support of those around you and help from a medical professional.
Move more
Physical inactivity is another contributor to CVD, as it can lead to unhealthy weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five times a week can help cut this risk, with brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling being good options. Making everyday changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking instead of driving are also easy ways to get more active.