It is not possible to predict who will get a heart attack and when. Nobody is completely immune from this disease and it is a fact that any of us can get a heart attack anytime even after taking medications or after undergoing bypass surgery or angioplasty. We can, however, reduce our risk of having a heart attack by adopting healthy lifestyle and taking medications when necessary. There is usually no single reason for a heart attack. There are multiple risk factors and one has to address them together. There are non- modifiable risk factors for heart ailments like increasing age, male sex and a family history of heart problems. One cannot do anything about it. One can, however, address the modifiable risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use etc. and adopt practices like weight management, regular exercise, healthy diet and managing stress. By consumption of healthy food, and exercising regularly, one can maintain good body weight. This will not only help in diabetes, BP and cholesterol management but will also reduce the risk of getting heart problems. Smoking and consumption of tobacco in any form is a major health risk and it must be completely shunned to reduce cardiac risk. Last but not the least, stress is a major problem in modern societies and with increasing competition, this seems to be not only getting worse but also affecting many young people. Inculcating good habits at an early age will help a long way in reducing one’s cardiac risk.
Maintain an ideal body weight
While losing weight is one thing, keeping it off is another issue entirely. Being obese is undoubtedly one of the biggest risk factors for any health issue. Firstly, don’t compare your ideal body weight with someone else’s, as various factors like age, height, sex, bone density etc. are taken into consideration before calculating the ideal weight. A person who has a balanced weight will be less susceptible to several serious disorders ranging from diabetes to heart diseases. The key to maintaining a healthy body weight along with high metabolism is being active every day. From doing household chores to walking your dog to daily exercising, all kinds of physical activities help in losing extra weight. Adequate hydration, required protein and vegetable intake, not skipping meals, eating less but often are some of the significant changes one can bring in to their daily routine to sustain a healthy body weight.
Exercise is must
“Eat smarter, move more” is the mantra to swear by for healthy body, mind and soul! Regular physical activities not just burn calories but make your body more flexible. Start off with small changes like walking 1,000 more steps a day as well as cutting out 100 calories daily. Be physically active every day. Research has shown that 3–4 moderate to intense physical activity sessions per week, lasting on average 30 minutes will control blood pressure, cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level. If you don’t get much time, then brisk walking for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week will keep you fit. Go for swimming, bike rides with your friends or join health clubs for maximum motivation. No matter what you do, keep one or two sessions of physical activity every day in your routine.
Healthy eating begins with knowing do’s and don’ts of regular eating habits. Adding more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cutting back on saturated fat, sodium and sugar will lower the risk of diabetes, cholesterol and weight gain. You can consult a dietitian for complete guidance. Don’t deprive yourself of any food that you love. Rather eat everything in moderation and spread out your meal in small doses over the day so that there isn’t a huge time gap between two meals. Be careful when choosing your snacks, instead of chips or cupcakes eat fruits, nuts, yogurt etc. Stay hydrated with water, fruits and vegetable juices. Always buy fresh vegetables and whole grain from farmer’s market rather than opting for easy to cook packed food that gets cooked when popped into the microwave. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet is ideal in keeping heart ailments at bay. Additionally, drinking tea/ coffee in moderation is also good for your heart.
Quit bad habits
Smoking, drinking or excess sugar consumption are some of the habits that many people can’t give up effortlessly. Instead of suppressing your urge to indulge in these habits, address the issue and replace them with healthy habits. For example, if you feel like smoking then immediately start chewing gum. If you are habituated to drink at night, then stock up your fridge with juices, cold water, lemon for consumption when you crave for alcohol. Motivate yourself with strong reasons to quit these habits. Like you know giving up smoking for good may mean prolonging your life or eating healthy may boost your energy for those outdoor adventures you want to enjoy. Still, if you find it difficult to give up, then consult your doctor, join a support group or manage your habit with tracking apps.
Stay away from the stress
Living with high-level of stress means putting your entire well-being at risk. Effective stress management is necessary for a healthy and productive life. Stress directly affects your blood pressure, changes in the way blood clots which increases the risk of heart attack. While it is important to work hard, perform well at work, give efforts in personal life; it is also necessary to let go of things which are not under your control. Take breaks, go for vacations, sleep well, relax in between busy schedules. Watch out for signs of depression, anxiety, frequent mood swings, irritability, headaches, dizziness, tiredness and other symptoms. Consult a psychologist, go for counselling sessions for thorough mental well-being.
Taking necessary medication prescribed by doctors
Lastly, it goes without saying that your prescribed medications are must for lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. Follow up with your doctor at regular intervals. Develop a routine for taking your heart medications. Take them exactly as your doctor prescribes or directs. Don’t stop taking medication unless your doctor tells you to do so. At the same time continue to maintain your healthy lifestyle which will increase the rate of improvement.
Dr. Anjan Siotia, Senior Consultant,
BMB Department of Interventional Cardiology