Heart disease has taken centre stage in India in the recent years. Unhealthy lifestyle, wrong dietary habits, low awareness of risk factors and inefficient surveillance mechanism are all contributing.
But the fact is that loving your heart doesn’t take much effort, all you need is some right information. And which better day that Valentines day to show your (own) heart some love.
I have for you 10 simple steps that go a long way towards keeping your heart ‘whole and happy’.
Ghee is Good
Stop banning butter and ghee from your diet. It is now clear that saturated fat does not lead to heart disease.
So the new mantra is don’t ban fat, just go easy on it and choose the good fats over the bad, and here ghee works.
Double the Benefit
The Mediterranean diet rocks because of the many healthy ingredients it incorporates, one of which is olive oil.
When you make your salads, sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil on the greens. A fusion of healthy fats in olive oil and nitrites and nitrates (found in greens like spinach, celery, and carrots) bestows heart-healthy benefits by reducing both the total and LDL, or bad cholesterol levels in our blood.
Try this Italian olive spread - combine pureed Italian black olives, olive oil and black pepper – on toasted bread instead of butter.
Make sure you begin your day by gulping two cloves of garlics that have been crushed and left aside for a few minutes.This helps lower bad cholesterol and cut inflammation in the body. It also helps regulate your blood pressure.
Instead of munching on chips have an apple or a pear in those in-between meal times. People who eat fruits regularly have a decreased risk of dying from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
These heart-healthy benefits can be attributed to compounds known as flavonoids, which help reduce bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Your mom used to give you five almonds every day and then when you grew old you just tossed them aside without a thought!
Begin chomping them again if you love your heart - they are packed with heart-friendly good fats, vitamin E, and calcium.
Eating almonds every day can lead to a decrease in LDL cholesterol by as much as 20 percent over time.
Walnuts are a great choice too: vitamin E in these nuts is in a form (gamma-tocopherol) that is very heart-protective, plus it is loaded with omega-3, which helps lower bad cholesterol LDL levels, and up the good cholesterol HDL.
Choose the Right Grains
It makes sense to eat all the good grains you can find, in rotation.
Insoluble fibre found in whole wheat, wheat bran, seeds, barley, couscous, and brown rice is a known friend of the heart.
Oats almost work like nature's broom, literally whisking excess cholesterol out of the system and the antioxidant compounds unique to them (avenanthramides) help keep our hearts in the pink.
Eat millets to give your body a break from gluten and to score even more nutrients and higher protein.
Please Chuck the Soda
People who drink soda every day - even diet soda - are more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease.
That is because they increase the risk of developing a condition called metabolic syndrome that in turn boosts the risk of heart disease and diabetes both.
Plus you tend to gain a lot of weight because of the extra liquid calories from aerated drinks, which is another direct risk factor for your precious heart.
You don’t really need to exercise too much to get the benefits of exercise Running as little as 5-10 minutes a day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
And even if you have never exercised earlier, now’s the time to do so. In fact the benefits of exercise become evident and comparable in those who start training before the age of 30 or after the age of 40. So better late than never.
But that said equally important is not sitting for too long at a time, as that apparently increases heart-failure risk, even for those who exercise regularly.
Cut Stress = Happy Heart
Better work-life balance and stress management are important for a healthy heart, but the current model of work culture we follow, with impossible deadlines, and chasing targets 24/7, leads to a lot frustration and negativity.
which pump up the secretion epinephrine or non epinephrine in the body - and can precipitate rupture of vulnerable plaques and massive heart attacks.
Take a Nap
A 30 minute nap in the middle of the day (or even a 10 minute nap) may actually save your heart as a midday siesta helps relax and lower stress levels, fending off heart disease. So go find that couch for a nap or put your head down on your work desk for a while.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of The Don't Diet Plan: A no-nonsense guide to weight loss, Fix it with Food, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks, and Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People.)