Look After Your Heart
Dr. Mehtab Ghazi Rahman
A healthy diet includes a lot of fruits.
Heart disease is one of the commonest causes of illness and death (morbidity and mortality) in our country. Because heart disease is one of the most frequent causes of 'early' death globally, we must start looking after our hearts from an early age to prevent complications in the future. If you suffer from heart disease or know someone who does, you will have seen how the disease can make simple activities of daily life difficult and stop one from taking part in normal activities due to fatigue, exhaustion and, in advanced cases, suffer from heart pain and oedema (swelling of the legs and hands). So what causes heart disease and how can we prevent it? In this article, we will learn about the causes of heart disease and ways we can help ourselves look after our heart and keep it healthy for life.
Heart disease is caused by:
1. Not eating a healthy balanced diet
3. Not taking regular exercise
4. High blood pressure (if it is not well controlled)
5. Being overweight
6. Diabetes (if it is not well controlled)
The heart is a marvellous organ from the time we are in our mother's womb to the day of our death, the heart continues to beat away without rest! The heart is a very resilient organ indeed. Heart disease does not develop over days or months, but over many years of constant harm to the heart caused by the reasons listed above. However, it is never late to start looking after your heart. You can reduce the risk of heart disease from today, whatever your age, by considering the following points:
1. Eating a healthy diet: Many people groan when the words 'healthy diet' is mentioned to them. This is because of the misconceptions they have about the actual meaning of a 'healthy diet'. When medical professionals talk about a balanced diet, they do not mean one needs to subsist on boiled or bland food only. A healthy, balanced diet is one that includes five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (apples, oranges, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.), breads and cereals (for energy and to keep your intestines healthy), moderate amounts of rice and/or potatoes (for energy), meat/fish/beans/pulses (for protein) and milk/dairy products. You can cook the food any way you like, but make sure you use only vegetable oil (sunflower or olive) in low quantities and moderate salt (maximum of 6g a day). Fish is very good for the heart, and you should try to make it a regular dish during your meals. Sardines and tuna are thought to be especially good, as they contain 'omega-3 fatty acids' which help prevent buildup of fats in your arteries and stops them from clogging up. Try to reduce consumption of fatty food and oil to a minimum fried food and oily curries are especially bad for you. Full fat cream milk is also a big 'no'- 'no' for adults. White meat like chicken is good for you, but when you eat red meat like beef or mutton, stick to the lean meat and not the fatty portions. Fruits and vegetables are especially good for you as it helps to prevent heart disease and high blood pressure. Apart from being tasty, fruits and vegetables contain no fat, so you can eat these in moderately large quantities without having to worry about your weight. In the United Kingdom, doctors advise everyone to eat five portions of fruit and vegetable a day, as this is the optimum number to meet your body's daily nutritional needs. Sticking to these points will not only keep your heart healthy, but also help you to reduce your weight.
2. Take part in regular physical activity: Participating in physical activity regularly helps to keep your heart healthy and strong. The heart is actually made up of muscle, so the more you exercise your heart, the stronger it gets. The type of exercise you do does not have to be physically exhausting. Just 30 minutes of brisk-walking or taking part in simple exercises (that makes you break into a light sweat) five times a week is adequate. If this is not something that you fancy doing, why don't you help out with housework? Make your own bed or dust heights - anything that provides you with mild physical exertion is good. Just a not of caution here if you suffer from a chronic illness, please consult your doctor before you start taking part in physical exercise.
3. STOP Smoking: Smoking is poison for the heart. Not only does smoking cause heart disease, it actually doubles your risk of having a heart attack! When you smoke, it also increases you blood pressure, which can eventually cause a stroke. Hence, for a healthy body, stopping smoking is not an 'option'; it is a 'necessity'. It is easy to tell someone to stop smoking, but there is no quick or easy way to do this. If you are a smoker, the important question is: do you want to stop smoking? You need to realise that taking a firm decision to stop smoking is possibly one of the best and most important decisions that you will take in your life! A number of successful medical therapies are available to help you stop smoking, such as nicotine patches and gums. Please consult your doctor for more advice. Try cutting down one cigarette each week until you stop completely each cigarette you smoke kills hundreds of your lung cells and helps build up fats in your arteries, leading to an increased risk of serious problems like COPD, lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
4. Lose Weight: Being overweight leads to high blood pressure and increases your risk of developing diabetes. Both high BP and diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. Eat healthy and be more active not only will this ensure a healthy heart and help with weight loss, but also make you feel good from the inside.
5. Manage stress: Stress causes your blood pressure to rise, and this increases you risk of a stroke. It would be foolish to ask one to stop stressing as this is impossible in the fast pace of life today, but try to identify things that stress you and learn to manage them. A number of articles will be published on the Star Magazine to help you cope with stress in the near future.
6. Regular check-ups: If you are afraid you may have heart disease or have family members who suffer from heart conditions, it is a good idea to have regular check-ups with your doctor, especially once you have reached the age of 40. Even if you don't have heart conditions in you family, it would be wise to get your blood pressure checked regularly. As with all medical illnesses, the earlier an illness is identified, the better the chance of the illness being healed.
With adequate care, your heart should last you a lifetime without any problems. Look after your heart, and your body will look after you.
(Dr. Mehtab Ghazi Rahman is a Graduate of Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) and Human Bio-Medical Sciences BSc(Hons)* from the University of London. He is currently working as a Doctor for the National Health Service, United Kingdom)
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