Healthy habits make a healthy heart

ISLAMABAD: Heart disease is often described as the silent disease because it can be developing many years before there are any signs or symptoms. Heart disease can include many conditions. Among them are congestive heart failure, stroke, congenital heart defects and coronary heart disease, which include heart attack and angina. Risk factors that can lead to heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Healthy lifestyles are important for heart health for people of all ages. Implementing these healthy habits will help you to prevent or delay the onset of heart disease and the risk factors associated with it.

Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.

Choose whole grain, high fiber foods. Soluble fiber helps control cholesterol and insoluble fiber has been shown to decrease the progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals.

Consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice per week. Oily fish such as salmon, trout and herring contribute omega-3 fatty acids which are associated with a reduced risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Limit fat in your diet to no more than 20-35 percent of total calories. Saturated fat should be no more than 10 percent of total calories. The average American should consume around 2,000 calories per day. If 30 percent of the calories came from fat, total fat should be no more than 67 grams and saturated fat should be less than 22 grams. Of course, you don’t need any saturated fat, so less is better.

Watch sodium intake. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. If you are at risk for high blood pressure, your goal should be to consume 1,500 milligrams or less per day.

Watch your portion sizes. Larger portions mean higher calories, and higher calories can mean weight gain. Being overweight can place an extra burden on your heart.

If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That is no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.

Get plenty of physical activity. Everyone should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Moderate exercise should make you feel slightly out of breath. A brisk walk is an example of moderate exercise. If you don’t have 30 minutes, you can do it in 10 minute increments and still enjoy the health benefits.

Practice these healthy habits and you will most likely reap more benefits than just a healthy heart.

Increasing age, gender and heredity cannot be changed, but other risk factors can be. A person at risk for heart disease can reduce the risk by: avoiding smoking; being physically active every day; choosing good nutrition; reducing high cholesterol; lowering high blood pressure; aiming for a healthy weight; managing diabetes; reducing stress and limiting alcohol.

Choose a small change to make in each category. For example:

As a stress break at work, try skipping a cigarette and going for a short walk instead. Even 10 minutes at a time of walking may have health benefits.

Vow to skip French fries one day per week – make it fries-free Friday. Investigate the calorie count of a favorite food and see if you can just eat one serving, or find a healthier option that is just as good.

Published in Daily Times, June 10th 2018.