Keeping Heart Diseases at bay: Few simple steps for healthy heart

Earlier, heart disease was considered to afflict only adults after the age of 40. But today due to various factors, heart disease has begun to spread its claws to the younger generation too. When your heart takes all the stress, it is bound to breakdown. Mounting tensions, galloping pollution, deteriorating dietary habits and sedimentary lifestyles are contributing to an increasing number of people in their early 20s and 30s experiencing the most dreaded phenomenon of life–a heart attack!

Inspite of advancement, today’s lifestyle is more a bane than a boon for an individual from health perspective. In today’s fast moving world, people have little or practically no time for any structured exercise regime. In addition to this, highly structured gadgets tha perform almost all the tasks with ease. Which has replaced the physical activity earlier required to perform daily tasks. Thus, increasing mechanization is contributing towards sedimentary lifestyle which is responsible for an increasing prevalence of heart disease.

Obesity, being the mother of all chronic diseases is the primary cause of heart diseases. Over 1 billion people worldwide are currently overweight. WHO has issued a strong warning that overweight and obesity are among the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.

keeping heart diseases at bay

By simple modification in our lifestyle we can keep heart disease at bay. Besides moderate physical activity and exercise, our dietary habits play vital role in keeping our heart healthy. Here are some facts about food substances that play major role in preventing or causing heart problems.

1. Trans fats

Hydrogenated vegetable oils contain trans fats that lowers good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol. They are the worst enemy of our heart as they do more harm than any other type of fat. Avoid re-heating or reusing the same oil that has already used for cooking once. For instance Fried snacks cooked by halwais who reheat the same oil again and again for cooking. No doubt our mouth waters with the sight and smell of those crispy snacks but they are loaded with trans fatty acids.

These tiny devils are hidden in almost every favourite snack. Samosa, fried snacks, bakery products like pastries, cakes and unfortunately in chocolates too. Well, it is easy to spot them in packaged foods by looking for the term “hydrogenated vegetable oils” in the ingredients.

2. Saturated fats

Avoid using saturated fats or limit their intake. As they are known to increase the plasma cholesterol levels and accelerate clot formation in blood vessels. They are mainly present in animal foods. Like meat, whole milk and milk products prepared from whole milk. They are also found in considerable amount in some vegetable oils like coconut,  palm and palmolein oil. These tropical oils are only major sources of saturated fats among vegetable oils.

3. Unsaturated fats

There are mainly two types of unsaturated fats. They are PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) and MUFA (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids). These are beneficial to heart as they are known to reduce serum cholesterol levels. Sunflower, corn and soybean oils are rich sources of PUFA where as Olive, groundnut and canola oils are rich sources of MUFA.

4. Fish oils

These contain long chain Polyunsaturated fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids. They are known to exert a protective effect on heart by lowering triglyceride levels in blood. And also by preventing blood platelet aggregation thereby reducing the risk of clot formation in the blood vessels. Flax seeds and walnuts are the sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Fibre

There are two types of fibre present in plant food, namely soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber plays an important role in preventing heart disease. Soluble fibres such as proteins, gums and mucilage reduce serum cholesterol and increase the excretion of bile acid. They bind with cholesterol and inhibit its absorption from the intestine. The rich sources of soluble fibre are oats, guava, apple, whole grain cereals, pulses, beans and pear. Recent studies have found that the component called oryzanol and tocotrienols present in rice bran oil also helps in lowering cholesterol.

6. Antioxidants

These are phytochemicals present in some plant foods. They are known to play a preventive role in heart disease. They neutralize free radicals in body due to pollution, stress, poor dietary habits or smoking. Free radicals are also produced during normal metabolism of the body and are highly reactive in nature. They cause oxidation of LDL or bad cholesterol which is more damaging to the arteries.

Food rich in antioxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene, Vitamin C and E, minerals like selenium, iron,copper and zinc. Polyphenols in green tea, bioflavonoids in black tea, onion, garlic and  leafy vegetables have antioxidant properties.

7. Alcohol

Studies suggest that alcohol in moderate amounts helps in raising good cholesterol levels and dilates small blood vessels. But when taken in excess may cause arrhythmia or irregular heart beat. Red wine also contains antioxidants called polyphenols.

8. Sugar

Though sugar in diet does not contribute much to heart disease but when taken in excess may increase triglyceride levels. Also it provides empty calories which leads to overweight and obesity thereby causing heart problems.

Thus the rapid advancement in science and technology has definitely added years to an individual’s life. But our chief concern still remains to add life to years by staying healthy. So as to enrich one’s life rather than just prolong life with the misery and burden of these lifestyle diseases.

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