World Heart Day is celebrated on 29th September globally and there's no better time to discuss how our lifestyle and diet choices affect our health in a big way. Lifestyle choices, we all know, is the only way to keep ourselves healthy. It is very true for heart's health too. The steep increase in non-communicable diseases in recent decades has been attributed to poor choices that we make daily. Intake of foods that are unhealthy, nutrient-free, sugary as well as full of saturated, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and stress have adverse effects on your heart. A recent study has shown that by just improving our lifestyle choices, we can reduce the risk of heart-related diseases by 50%.
Significance Of World Heart Day 2020
World Heart Day 2020 aims to encourage a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits. One of the objectives is to also raise awareness about the importance of engaging in physical activity to reduce the risk of heart diseases. According to the World Heart Federation, this year in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic, the theme of World heart day is '#UseHeart to beat cardiovascular disease'. World Heart Federation stresses on the fact that in the time of COVID-19, CVD patients are faced with a double-edged threat. They are not just more at risk of developing severe forms of the virus, but they may also be afraid to seek ongoing care for their hearts. Thus, taking care of our hearts right now is more important than ever.
Heart-related diseases (cardiovascular diseases) are on the rise globally and India is right at the forefront. Today, when we are facing a pandemic, there are certain limitations that we face to achieve a healthy lifestyle, so how do we protect our heart? Let me take you through easy things that will improve your overall health and keep your heart in top shape.
Here Are 5 Healthy Diet And Lifestyle Tips To Keep Your Heart Healthy Post COVID:
1. Eat Healthy
Healthy food is basically food made with fresh ingredients, less oil and salt. Very easy to achieve right now, especially when we are eating home-cooked food. Let me detail this using the 5 food groups:
- Whole grains should make up at least half your grain servings. So, ensure that two major meals contain whole grains in the form of millets, parboiled rice/ brown rice, multigrain flour. Keep the refined for one meal. Whole grain fibre is the most effective in controlling Lipids, as a number of researches have shown
(Also Read: 7 Best Heart-Healthy Breakfast Recipes)
- Protein: Choose healthy plant-based protein sources like legumes, nuts and seeds. Whole dals like rajmah, lobia, chickpeas come with lots of fibre, heart protective minerals and phytonutrients. They add satiety to the meal preventing overeating and keep the food longer in our system - meaning you avoid binging. Proteins are also the cornerstone for a healthy immune system. Add one protein to every meal. Other than whole dals, egg, chicken breast, and fish made in less oil are also healthy.
- Oils and Fats: Choose healthy oils from peanut, rice bran, and sunflower. Change the oil source every month or two. Plant-based oils are good sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, poly-unsaturated fats and are also low in saturated fats. Adding a mustard oil or sesame oil in combination to the above makes it perfect. Quantity of 500mls/person, including all sources of added oil, is the thumb rule!
- Vegetables and Fruits: Fresh seasonal, locally-grown vegetables are freely available. Fill up half your plate with different colours daily. They add fibre and phytonutrients that protect the heart from degeneration and keep it healthy. Rich in antioxidants, they protect the heart from oxidative stress. Whole fruits are where the health is. Fresh juices leave out a lot of nutrients and packaged juices add extra sugar calories.
- Milk and Milk Products: Best source of calcium, which is an important nutrient for heart muscle health, drinking two glasses of fat free or double toned milk is necessary. Dahi, the fermented form of milk, is rich in probiotics, which keep our gut healthy and also add up to a healthy heart and lower Lipids.
In conclusion: While planning a major meal, make sure that you have at least one component from a minimum of four food groups. For snacks, choose proteins over carbs and roasted over fried. Avoid anything that is packet, because you will invariably add extra sodium and fat into your day.
2. Exercising is must for a healthy heart
Do stationary aerobic exercises daily for at least 30 minutes unless contraindicated by your doctor.
- Working from home: Walk and talk. Use every opportunity to walk at home.
- Chair Yoga: Do your stretches while working, it will keep you from feeling crampy.
- Count your steps: 10,000 is a good target for the day. 15,000 is where you start to protect your heart. If you are nowhere near this, no need to worry. Start today, walk at one spot, increase your steps every 2-3 days.
I would not advice you to go out or join a gym just yet, but all of the above are achievable at home.
3. Sleep for eight hours minimum
Deprivation of sleep has a direct effect on heart health, irrespective of other risk factors. While staying at home, we may have got into a habit of sleeping during the day and staying awake at night. You may be getting 7-8 hours of sleep, but the circadian clock in our brain works on solar time, so night is when it matters the most.
4. Stress management
There are variou reasons to get stressed - from the scare of getting infected to job uncertainty and to being away from friends and family. All of these things may add up to the list and you may hamper your heart health too. Take control, talk to family and friends, talk to a life coach if necessary, but work on your feelings (reasons for stress) before they get the better of your heart.
5. Medications and Doctors advice
Take any medications prescribed religously and reach out to your doctor, if required. Even a video consultation will be good.
It is very important to take care of our body and mind during these Covid times. Eat healthy and maintain a sustainale lifestyle to keep your body, mind and soul happy.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.