"A healthy heart means a healthy life, yet most of us ignore our heart health. With two million heart attack cases in India in a year; it kills one Indian every 33 seconds. Though this is undeniably alarming, luckily, there are preventive measures to keep your heart healthy", says Dr. Bhaskar, Senior Consultant, Cardiologist, Healthians.
Building cholesterol is a major factor that is driving the growing cases of heart attacks. It is a waxy substance that is found in fats (lipids) in blood. While our body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.
According to Dr. Bhaskar, "Our eating habits can help us avoid high cholesterol issues. One should know what not to eat to avoid the many health related problems."
Dr. Bhaskar advises to keep a check on what you eat to stay away or control bad cholesterol. Here are few vital tips to enjoy your favourite snacks while keeping bad cholesterol under control.
- French Fries
It is a deep fried snack which contains the unhealthiest fat, i.e. trans-fat, in combination with salt. Due to the presence of hydrogenated vegetable oils in french fries, it is a big no for people living with bad cholesterol.
TIP: Replace deep frying with baking.
- Egg Yolks
A popular breakfast food, eggs have high cholesterol content. So if you wish to continue eating your favorite breakfast, eat egg whites preferably. Avoid fried egg and omelet stuffed with cheese.
TIP: Scrambled eggs cooked in controlled quantity of oil can be chosen as a healthy option.
Butter is everybody's beloved fat option to enhance the taste of food. It contains saturated fat, whereas salted butter contains a substantial amount of sodium as well. So, frequent consumption can clog your arteries, which will lead to heart problems and is considered very harmful for blood pressure patients too.
TIP: Use home cooked white butter instead.
- Red Meat
Red meat like beef, lamb and pork tend to contain more cholesterol and saturated fat than other meats. This can contribute to a rise in cholesterol levels and worsen heart diseases.
TIP: Make white meat (chicken, fish) a part of your non-vegetarian diet choices.
- Commercial Baked Goods
These delightful snacks contain trans-fat which is bad for your heart health. So, the need of the hour is to stay away from these commercial baked goods.
TIP: Start baking at home. Muffins and cakes can easily and quickly be baked at home using healthier oils (Canola oil).
- Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is an unhealthy choice as it contains chemicals and synthetics for flavouring and colouring and often loaded with butter, oil and salt which increase cholesterol levels.
TIP: The healthiest popcorn is made in an old-fashioned manner on the stove-top or with a popcorn maker.
- Macaroni and Cheese
These are packed with preservatives and artificial taste enhancers which are often loaded with calories, fat count and sodium which is bad for cholesterol.
TIP: A healthier version is whole wheat pasta made with red sauce loaded with veggies like bell peppers, onion, tomato, corn etc.
- Ice- Cream
Sugar is not just an enemy for dental health and waistline which can lead to weight gain, but it increases your risk for diabetes and bad cholesterol levels. Though many ice-cream flavors available in the market are surely very tempting and satiate all demands of the greedy tongue, they actually put a dent on your health parameters.
TIP: Shift to home-made ice-creams made with low-fat milk added with fresh fruits. Also, increase your water intake to avoid sugar cravings.
- Fizzy Drinks or Carbonated Beverages
The favourite thirst quencher has frequently been demonstrated to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. They provide empty calories, which are of no nutritional value and they are damaging to health. It contains carbonic acid which erodes tooth enamel too.
TIP: Fresh lime or vita-water can be chosen as an alternative.
- Convenience Foods
Processed foods are very convenient as they are boxed, bagged, canned or jarred. It is a hidden form of sugar, salt and fat and contains preservatives and other additives which can lead to weight and heart problems. They can also raise your blood pressure, putting you at danger of stroke.
TIP: There is nothing better than fresh home cooked food, yet if you need to eat processed food, figuring out the food labels on the packaged items will help choose the least harmful options.
He also shares a few pointers to lower your risk of heart attack:
-Cut back on stress
With today's lifestyle, stress has become a part of our life. A demanding job, loads of bills to pay and a family who demand time and attention, we surely have a lot on our hands these days. Stress surely slowly but crept into our lives, gradually consuming a major part of our day. With regular stress originates a lot of health issues and out of these, heart problems are of a major concern. Hence it is very important to eliminate this stress from our life. Find ways to eliminate stress. Take breaks from work, nurture a hobby, watch movies, play some game or go for a massage. Take time out to be yourself. Go on vacations, weekend getaways, read, paint, dance, spend time with friends, go for walks, do yoga. The idea is to de-stress yourself and find peace in life.
-Get going & moving
Adding exercise to our daily routine is essential for keeping the heart healthy. Doing minimum of 30 minutes of cardio activity 3 days per week is highly recommended. 30 minutes of daily, moderate activity will go a long way to protect your heart and your health. Try brisk walk, cleaning the house, dancing or lifting light weights. If you are overweight, losing weight should also be on your to-do list. Though, skipping a day or two of physical activity is safe, it should not set you back too much. The key is to make exercise a regular habit.
A minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruits per day can help in having a healthy heart. Eating healthy fats that are plant based are heart friendly. Nuts, olive oil, and avocado are all good for your heart and helps in lowering the LDL cholesterol. Salmon and other types of fish, that are high in omega-3 fatty acids help in reducing the risk of heart attacks.
-Say no to smoking
If you smoke, then it's time to quit. Smoking is the single most reason for many health issues. It is not easy to suddenly stop smoking or avoid it, but by discontinuing this unhealthy habit, the lung capacity will improve, and the heart will get the oxygen it needs to stay healthy. This will also improve your HDL cholesterol level.
-Cut the soda
Data has proved that the biggest soda drinkers are at a 20% higher risk for heart disease. It is important to cut the intake of soda or any other kind of sugar sweet beverage. These drinks can lead to an increase in the risk of gaining weight, as they are packed with a ton of calories. Their sugary sweetness can spark the sweet tooth and can cause a craving to eat other high-carbohydrate foods. Weight gain can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
-Regular health check-up
According to a recent WHO report, the four major metabolic risk factors responsible for the growing number of heart diseases are:
-Raised blood pressure
-Raised blood cholesterol levels
Your family history and lifestyle pattern can increase your risk to develop these medical conditions. Only with regular monitoring of these parameters one can know the true status and start the correct medication. Your doctor may also order more tests.
Sleep well to live well
Last but not the least, a good night's sleep is not only what we want, but what even our heart wants. Sleep provides the body the much required rest. It has been seen that people who don't get enough sleep are at greater risk for heart disease, which can possibly be due to its effects on the metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. So, if you love your heart, sleep well.
There is no guarantee that a person will never have a heart attack, but there are few things which can surely lower the risk. It is never too late to jump into a healthier lifestyle. Rather, the sooner you start, the better.