Consciously, you may not be aware of it, but your heart is constantly pumping blood to all your body parts and keeping you alive. Can you imagine that this small organ which is just about the size of your fist pumps about 2000 gallons of blood every day? When not taken proper care of, serious problems, like plaque formation, can develop and damage your heart. It is this plaque that leads to heart attacks and blockage in your arteries.
Here’s all that you know about your heart; the complications and the solutions, we’ve got it all.
- HEART DISEASE
Cholesterol, a waxy substance is made by our body and also can be obtained from food. It helps our body make Vitamin D and certain hormones like testosterone and estrogen. While some amount of cholesterol is vital, too much of it can be a problem.
Cholesterol can be of 2 types – HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein). The LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, leads to clogging of the arteries and the good cholesterol, HDL protects you from it.
Since high cholesterol is asymptomatic, it is essential to get your levels checked through a blood test or home kits. You may have to prepare for these tests prior. If you’re over 20 years of age with no risk of heart disease, getting a checkup every 4-6 years is good enough. However, if you are at high risk of heart diseases, or are under medication, the visits have to be more frequent.
Here are some steps to maintain your cholesterol level –
- Follow a balanced or a heart-healthy diet that includes all the food groups. Avoid red meat and sugary drinks.
- Exercise regularly while aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes of heart-pumping activities like running, swimming, bicycling, etc.
- If you are a smoker, then it’s time for you to quit if you want to take care of your heart. Avoid passive smoking too.
2. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls. A high blood pressure is called hypertension. High blood pressure can damage your arteries, kidneys and other organs as well leading to conditions like memory and vision loss, chest pain, and circulatory problems among many others.
High blood pressure does not show any symptoms, and hence it is called a “silent killer”. The only way to check if you have high blood pressure is through a test. “Hypertensive crisis” is when your blood pressure goes so high that you need immediate care. In that case, there would be symptoms like chest discomfort, severe back pain and headache, vomiting, visual problems, or seizure.
There are two blood pressure readings. The top number is called systolic pressure, and the bottom reading is called diastolic pressure. In case one or both of these are too high, you may have a problem. If you do not have high blood pressure, then a checkup every two years after you turn 20 is good enough.
Here are some ways through which you can keep a check on your blood pressure level –
- Always eat healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and fatty fish. Limit your consumption of salt largely (not more than 1500 milligrams in a day). Cut back on packaged foods and opt for a more healthy home-cooked meal.
- If you are new to exercise or haven’t done it in a while, talk to your doctor about a schedule. You’d want to do aerobic exercises like biking, walking, running, and swimming.
- Keep a check on your weight in case you are overweight.
- Stress is another thing to look out for in case you have high blood pressure. Find ways to de-stress like meditation, crafts, short naps and other things.
- Avoid both active and passive smoking.
- If you are prescribed certain medications by your doctor, make sure to follow them strictly.
- Limit your alcohol consumption to not more than two drinks in a day.
- HEART-HEALTHY LIVING
One can never be too safe. So here are some ways to lower your chances of heart diseases –
- Get a physical at least once a year to make sure you haven’t developed any new conditions and to keep a check on your previous conditions (if any).
- Keep a regular tab on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Your doctor or your pharmacy can keep a track on this, or you can purchase some equipment at home.
- Watch your blood sugar level very closely in case you have diabetes.
- If you are on meds and start observing side effects, don’t discontinue them. Instead, ask for alternative meds.
- TOOLS TO CHECK YOUR HEART HEALTH AT HOME
These tools will save you the hassle of visiting a doctor very frequently as you can now keep tabs on your health on your own –
- Blood pressure monitor (tracks blood pressure)
- Heart rate monitor (reads the heart rate when you indulge in any physical activity)
- Pedometer (measures the distance covered and the number of steps taken in a day)
- Activity tracker (helps track distance, length of activity, calorie burn and sometimes even sleep)
- Download a smartphone app (helps you keep track of your health as well as support others simultaneously)
- Scale (weigh yourself at least once a week to be more successful)
- Cholesterol home test kit (helps test cholesterol between doctor visits)
- EATING FOR YOUR HEART
Making small changes is sufficient for a long term effect and also easier to stick to. You may have a strict diet or follow some basic guidelines. Either way, here are some things you can follow –
- Fix a daily calorie limit. Packaged meals (a single portion of a balanced, calorie-controlled meal) may be helpful for you.
- Use proper serving sizes. Get a food scale to measure your portions or look up portion size guides online.
- Some things to cut back on include – red meat, sugary foods and drinks, saturated fats, sodium, processed or canned foods.
- Consume foods that include – potassium-rich fruits and vegetables (bananas, raisins, oranges), whole grains, low-fat dairy, fatty fish and lean meats.
- A diet rich in fiber reduces risks of heart diseases and diabetes, lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, and helps maintain a healthy weight.
- ASPIRIN AND HEART HEALTH
Aspirin thins down the blood and prevents clotting, thereby preventing heart attacks. Consult your doctor if you want to undergo aspirin therapy.
However, don’t take aspirin if you –
- Are allergic to it.
- Are having any medical or dental procedures.
- Are at risk of intestinal bleeding or a hemorrhagic stroke
- Drink alcohol regularly.