Stethoscope with heart and ecg graph on blue background portraying heart diseases

Say No to 5 ‘S’ for Preventing Heart Diseases

08/02/2022

Cardiac ailments or heart diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Although it is not entirely inevitable, you can still take control of most of the risk factors associated with heart diseases. While you cannot control factors such as age or family history, there are many other risks you can reduce.

These factors may include diet, physical activity, healthy lifestyle habits, cutting down those extra calories and weight, and regular health screening. Living a healthy lifestyle can keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels well under control for a healthy heart and reduced risk of heart disease.

Cardiac ailments include various heart diseases such as:

  • Blockage of blood vessels (coronary artery disease)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Heart defects present since birth (congenital heart disease)
  • Heart muscle diseases (cardiomyopathy, myocarditis)
  • Heart valve disease
  • Infection of the heart (endocarditis)
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction)

Here are five major factors you should say no to for a healthier heart and prevention of cardiac ailments:

  • Stress

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your heart. Your body is trained to react to stress in many ways to protect you. Whenever your body is stressed, it releases hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and cortisol increases blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol.

Thus, it is important to manage your stress levels through different ways such as maintaining a positive attitude, regularly exercising, practising relaxing and breathing techniques, performing yoga, spending time with friends and family or indulging in any other activity of your choice.

  • Sugar

High blood sugar levels increase the risk of heart diseases as excessive sugar intake affects the heart in many direct and indirect ways. Over time, high sugar content can result in the accumulation of fats in the body, leading to obesity. Obesity, in turn, increases blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of diabetes. Sugar can also cause inflammation in the body which can increase stress on the heart and blood vessels.

All these factors increase heart disease risk. Therefore, it is necessary to cut down on sugary foods such as desserts, canned foods and sugary beverages.

  • Sedentary lifestyle

Lack of regular physical activity is linked to an increased risk of heart diseases. When you do not move your body for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to poor metabolism, weight gain, and fat build-up in arteries, all of which increase stress on the heart. Like any other muscle in the body, the heart also needs exercise/physical activity to function well.

Any form of activity can be beneficial for the heart. Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. These could include brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, gardening, taking the stairs, etc.

  • Sleeplessness

Getting enough sleep is important for your heart health. When you are sleeping, you are relaxed, and your blood pressure goes down. Lack of sleep implies that your blood pressure remains high for a longer time, increasing the risk of heart diseases.

Over time, poor sleep leads to higher stress levels, unhealthy habits and foods choices; all are associated with a greater risk of heart diseases. Thus, it is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night for adults. Schedule a proper time to sleep and wake up, and ensure that you stick to it.

  • Smoking

Whenever you inhale cigarette smoke, more than 7000 toxic chemicals enter your body and interfere with the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body. Therefore, your heart is required to work harder to supply adequate oxygen to your body. This leads to high blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk of heart diseases.

One of the best steps to prevent heart diseases is to quit smoking immediately. Speak to your doctor for advice on various strategies to quit smoking. The earlier you quit, the safer your heart will remain!

Dr Gobu P
MD. (Gen. Med), DM (Cardiology), FIMSA, FESC
Senior Consultant & Interventional Cardiologist -
Institute of Cardiac Sciences

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