September 29 is World Heart Day which means that there’s no better time to discuss heart diseases. Dr. Amal A Louis, Interventional Cardiologist at Canadian Specialist Hospital answers questions about how to prevent and manage heart diseases.
Generally, heart disease is caused by the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries. This is usually a result of leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Being overweight, lack of physical exercise and smoking will lead to an increased risk of heart disease. People with diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension also need to be careful.
Athletes can also be at risk of heart diseases. The heart only has a certain capacity to exert itself and if it’s overworked, the chances of the heart muscle thickening increase. Sudden cardiac arrest can occur sometimes due to this thickening.
The best healthcare is preventative healthcare. According to Dr. Amal A Louis, regular health check-ups are a necessary way to ensure that you stay on top of potential heart diseases. Men are more prone to get heart attacks compared to women since women are naturally protected by estrogen. So, men should undergo health check-ups for the heart from the age of 35. Women on the other hand, begin losing the protection afforded to them by estrogen when they reach menopause and become prone to heart-related issues. Women should get health check-ups for the heart from the age of 45.
So, what can you do to avoid heart diseases?
One of the main ways to mitigate the risks of heart disease is a healthy and controlled diet. Reduce carbohydrates in your meals. This means reducing rice, root vegetables (any vegetable that grows under the soil) like potato, sweet potato and yam. Also reduce fats such as red meats, milk, butter, ghee, paneer, peanuts & cashew nuts. The best diet for a healthy heart includes lean proteins like grilled chicken breast, fruits and vegetables and nuts like walnuts, almonds and pecans.
Regular physical exercise is necessary as well. Exercises like brisk walking and slow running help in reducing the risk of heart disease. For a person that is overweight, it is recommended, that they ideally work out for 300 minutes a week. People within a normal weight range on the other hand should work out for 150 minutes in a week.
Change your environment and lifestyle. People who experience a lot of stress are prone to get heart disease and should try to reduce their levels of stress. They can make changes to their environment to make it more accommodating and relaxing. They can also adopt practices like yoga that involve breathing exercises.
As stated earlier, people, even the healthiest of athletes can be afflicted with sudden cardiac arrest and the cause for this is over-exercising that can cause inflammation of the heart muscle and lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Besides not over-exercising, people, especially athletes should also avoid anabolic steroids which can cause growth in heart muscles. There are no sure ways of preventing sudden cardiac arrest as of yet, which is why is also necessary to screen for heart anomalies regularly.
What if you already have had heart disease? How can you take care of your health after you have had a bypass or a heart attack?
A healthy diet is important to maintain a person’s health after they have gone through heart disease. A low carb and low-fat diet are the best for someone in this condition. A healthy diet should be coupled with regular exercise.
As stated earlier, people with diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension are at an increased risk for heart-related issues. A greater amount of care should be taken if you are affected by any of these.
Smoking should also be avoided at all costs. It is difficult to give up smoking as a habit, but counseling and medication can make the process easier and have been shown to be effective. Besides avoiding heart diseases, quitting smoking will show immediate health benefits. By the very next day, former smokers see that they can exercise better and in a few days they can breathe better.
Any treatment for heart disease is only a solution to the current problem. It is not the be-all-end-all solution. This is why medications for heart patients must be continued even after treatment. A lot of patients end up ignoring their medications after a heart surgery which can lead to problems.
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