Listen to your heart: Debunk some popular myths about cardiac health on World Heart Day

Created by the World Heart Federation, World Heart Day, which falls on September 19, is observed to inform people around the globe about heart disease. Here are some myths about heart disease and tips on heart health from a cardiologist

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are on the rise and their incidence in India has more than tripled over the last decade or so. What is even more disturbing is the fact that they are occurring in younger and younger people.

Demographic studies show that the rate of cardiac ailments is highest among South Asians, especially Indians. Those who are at high risk include those who are above the age of 45, people with a family history of heart disease and those with other lifestyle conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

On World Heart Day, which is observed globally on September 29, here are some tips on cardiac health and the myths you need to bust when it comes to protecting one of the most important organs in your body….

What is CVD?

CVD is a term used for a wide range of heart-related ailments that include those affecting the structure and function of the heart.

Some of these are coronary heart disease, arrhythmias, aortic stenosis, heart attack and heart failure, among others. Stress, a sedentary lifestyle, eating a diet rich in saturated and trans fats, tobacco use, obesity and being overweight are some of the risk factors of CVDs.

Aberrant lifestyle and hectic work schedules leave people living in cities with very little or no time for physical activity. This makes otherwise healthy-looking, young adults prone to developing heart disease at some point in their lifetime. Diabetes is another major contributing factor.

Watch for symptoms

Some of the symptoms that people must watch out for include chest pain or discomfort, pain in the jaw, neck or back (between the shoulder blades); unexplained weakness or fatigue and shortness of breath, cough, dizziness or nausea; sudden swelling or fluid retention in the legs.

Four myths about heart disease

#Myth:  It is okay to have high blood pressure if you are old

Blood pressure tends to rise with age, but it does not mean that this is normal.

With age, the arterial walls become stiff which is not normal and make the heart pump harder, damaging it over time.

Thus, irrespective of age, it is important to keep your diastolic blood pressure below 80 and systolic below 120. Start treatment if the blood pressure is more than 140/90.

Include a variety of nutritious foods in your diet and add some exercise too

#Myth: The risk of heart disease can be lowered with vitamins and supplements.

According to the American Heart Association, there is no scientific evidence that these supplements prevent or treat heart diseases. It is important to eat a wide variety of nutritious food including all 6 tastes and 7 colours in your diet.

#Myth: Women do not suffer from heart disease.

Whether you are a man or a woman, you are at risk, if you do not follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over age 65. Today more women get heart disease than combined cancer in them.

#Myth: Heart patients should not eat fat at all

You should indeed eat a diet low in saturated fat and zero in trans fats. However, other fats like unsaturated fats in vegetable oil are beneficial. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids twice a week can lower the risk of heart disease.

 Protect your heart

Take care of your heart for a full a healthy life

Most heart diseases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, beginning at a young age.

Some of the checkpoints in this process are undertaking some form of physical exercise for at least 30-60 minutes per day, eating heart-friendly food which includes more of whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and cutting down on alcohol, smoking and processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and trans fats.

Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Keep the lower BP, LDL cholesterol, waist circumference and fasting sugar all below 80. It is also recommended to undertake regular, age-appropriate screening at least annually so that CVDs can be detected at an early stage.

Take small steps

Taking care of your heart is a holistic approach with the utmost emphasis on preventive care.

Small modifications to your lifestyle can reflect greatly on your life in the long run. There is a need for building greater awareness among people about heart diseases and their prevention.

(Images credit: Shutterstock)

Edited by Asha Chowdary


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