Heart attacks are becoming more and more common every day. Whilst it’s not 100 per cent possible to avoid a heart attack, these are some of the measures you can take to keep your ticker healthy. Speaking to TheHealthSite ahead of the World Health Day 2023, Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati, MD DM, FACC FSCAI FESC, Interventional Cardiologist, suggested some simple ways to keep the heart healthy and reduce the risk of getting heart attack.
For the unversed, World Health Day is celebrated every year on 7 April, remembering the day the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948. This year, the organization is celebrating its 75th anniversary. “Health For All” is the theme of World Health Day 2023.
Expressing concern about the increasing cases of heart attacks, Dr Chhatrapati has recommended a few things that people should be doing every day to keep their heart healthy and reduce the risk of heart attack. Here are some simple ways, he has suggested, to keep your heart healthy:
Avoid tobacco and alcohol
One of the most common offenders, especially In younger age group is tobacco. Smoking, chewing or using tobacco in any form is severely Harmful. Tobacco contains Harmful substances which can make your platelets “sticky” and cause a heart attack. Remember, a single cigarette makes you vulnerable to a heart attack for the next 15 days. There is no “lower safe limit” for using tobacco. The only way is to avoid it completely!
Whilst occasional alcohol is not as harmful as tobacco to the heart, prolonged and habitual use is deadly. Alcohol contributes to irregular heart rhythm, heart failure, sleep disorders, high blood pressure and many other heart problems. Best advice regarding Alcohol is : avoid it’s habitual use.
Know your numbers
Keep track of your health parameters and know what is “normal”. A blood pressure of 120/80 is considered normal. Anything more than that should be a wakeup call for Lifestyle Modifications. Similarly Fasting Blood Sugar should be less than 100 mg. 3 months average blood sugar (known as HbA1c) should be less than 5.7%. Total Cholesterol should be less than 130 mg%. LDL Cholesterol should be less than 100 mg%.
Knowing your numbers also means that a total body checkup should be done at least once a year after age 35. Early Intervention for abnormal test results translates into greater benefits.
Control your risk factors
There is a tendency in Indian population to “avoid” medications. This stems from a cultural belief that medicines are “Harmful” and “Addictive”. However, Chronic lifestyle diseases need a combination of medications and lifestyle changes to be controlled. It has been proven beyond doubt that controlling risk factors like diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol with medications lengthens life and prevents complications.
You are what you eat. Avoid fast food, fizzy drinks, unhealthy snacking, processed foods. Eat home cooked meals rich in green vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, eggs, lean meats and fish.
Maintain ideal body weight
Obesity is the leading cause of high blood pressure, diabetes, sleeping disorders, asthma, and heart failure. Losing weight is hard, but it is well worth the hard work because of the health benefits it bestows. It is important to note here that weight loss should be slow and sustainable, brought about by gradual change in lifestyle and dietary habits. Fad diets and crash diets not only don’t work in the long run but are potentially harmful.
Get physically active
At least 30-35 min of moderately active physical exercise 5 days a week is what is recommended for a healthy adult. It is advisable to do something which you enjoy. For example, combine your workout with a pleasurable activity like listening to music. You may listen to podcasts or even audiobooks, if that is what rocks your boat. The idea is to make your workout something you look forward to, and not something which is boring.
Also, physical activity doesn’t mean that you run the marathon. A 35-minute brisk walk is suited for most adults, and is what I generally recommend to all my patients.
A restful sleep of 7-9 hours is needed for all adults. Exercising by getting up early and thus compromising sleep does more harm than good. Sleep lowers blood pressure, and repairs injured tissues. It “cleans” the brain of toxins, gives much needed rest to the heart(by lowering blood pressure and heart rate both) and even enhances immunity. Refreshing sleep reduces the incidence of blood pressure, diabetes and even heart attack.
Mental stress has become a huge problem nowadays. Exams, deadlines, relationship problems, financial issues all take a toll on our health. Whilst avoiding stress altogether is not achievable, reducing the effect of stress on the body is very much possible. Mindfulness Meditation is a technique I have found very helpful in controlling stress. Professional help should always be availed in case of serious stress issues, without hesitation. Stress is “real”, and ignoring it is not in our interest.
Read this book
“Ikigai”: If there is one book I would recommend reading, it is the book Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese word, which literally means “Purpose in life”. Always work tirelessly towards a purpose, a passion in life. A purposeless life is doomed. Never retire. Have hobbies. Have friends. Play sports, even if they are not physically demanding. The Japanese have the most centenarians in the world and live longer than their counterparts in most other countries.
Dr Chhatrapati concluded, “These are my few suggestions for the World Health Day. We should focus on not only living longer, but also living healthier and fuller lives. Look after your bodies well. It is the only place you have to live!”
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
Get help immediately if you experience any of these warning signs of a heart attack.
Chest discomfort or chest pain (this is the most common heart attack symptom in both women and men)
Pain in arms, neck, jaw or the back.
Shortness of breath
Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting
Even if you’re not sure you’re having a heart attack, it’s better to have it checked out. The faster you act, the better your chances of survival and less damage to the heart muscle.