We are sure you know how important it is to keep your boss, spouse, parents, and kids satisfied and happy. If they’re happy, you are happy too.
There is something else that you need to keep happy if you want to be hale and hearty!
It’s your heart.
Yes, your heart needs as much tender love and care (if not more!) as your work and family. After all, the constantly working pump of your body which supplies blood and nutrients to all your cells has to be in perfect shape.
The most important way to ensure your heart health is to combat obesity – the top reason for all heart diseases. Excess weight automatically increases your chances of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart attacks. Be it working on your food choices, sleep or exercise – you need to invest time and effort in keeping your weight in check.
First, let’s analyze the power of nutrition.
For a healthy heart, you need to become best friends with Omega-3 fats and fibre. These two nutrients work magic on your cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure thus significantly reducing your risk of heart ailments. While fibre reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, Omega-3 fats boost your High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) aka good cholesterol levels.
The top dietary sources of Omega-3 fats are fish, fish oil, flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds. To boost your fibre intake, chomp on salads, snack on fruits and opt for whole grains and millets.
Now that you’ve found your heart’s best buddies, it’s time to look at the troublemakers.
- Fats – especially saturated fats in butter, cream, ghee, red meat and full-fat dairy products – increase your cholesterol levels and thus, must be eaten in moderation. Also, frequently munching on fried foods, especially namkeen, and fat-free foods, or using the same oil for re-frying spells trouble for your heart.
What’s more, most processed foods and bakery products contain trans-fats, the unhealthiest fat that creates havoc with your cholesterol levels.
Regularly drinking colas, tinned fruit juices or sherbets as well as bingeing on desserts increases blood pressure and may stimulate the liver to dump harmful fats into the bloodstream.
- Salt – Besides fats and sugar, put your antennas on high alert for salt. An excess intake of salt retains more water in the body. The excess fluid puts pressure on the blood vessel walls which become thick and narrow. As a result, your heart must pump harder to ensure proper blood flow.
You may not only use less salt in cooking but also avoid sprinkling additional salt to your food. But there are some sneaky ways salt can creep into your diet. For example ready-to-eat/packaged meals, pickles, papad, cheese, ketchup, salad dressings to name a few. So beware!
Now let’s analyze the other different aspects of your lifestyle that complement a healthy heart diet.
Your heart needs a quota of physical activity to stay fit. Apart from weight loss, regular exercise dilates the arteries and ensures smooth blood circulation which reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Exercising for 30 minutes for 5 days in a week, especially aerobic exercises like cycling, running or jogging thrice a week, keeps your heart in perfect shape. Also, exercise works as a great stress buster and keeps you in cheerful spirits.
Sleep, an often ignored aspect of your everyday life, is essential for a healthy heart. If you sleep less than six hours every night, you have higher levels of stress hormones. These hormones trigger blood pressure and inflammation, the key players in cardiovascular disease. Sleeping for more than nine hours regularly results in calcium build-up in the heart’s artery walls and stiffer leg arteries. Thus, both lack and excess of sleep ramp up the stress levels which over time, damage the arteries and mess with your cholesterol and blood pressure.
So, a well-planned fitness regime, meditation, yoga and a seven-eight-hour sleep go a long way to shield you from heart ailments.
Quitting smoking is another smart move to protect your heart. Smoking elevates your heart rate and blood pressure as well as reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. Thus, your heart must work harder to get the oxygen that it needs. Cigarette smoke narrows the arteries which may result in a heart attack.
Additionally, watch your alcohol intake. Apart from providing a massive 7 calories per gram, alcohol increases the triglyceride levels and puts you at risk of high blood pressure.
Now that you have unlocked the secret to a healthy heart, start making these small changes from today itself. Make smarter food choices exercise often, maintain a fixed sleep cycle, give up smoking and most importantly – stay happy!
Your heart will definitely reward you for taking such great care of it. 🙂
Vishruta is a nutritionist by profession and a writer by heart. Content writing and menu planning have become her passions over the past few years. Love food, love life — is her mantra.