Category Archives: Heart Health
When we speak of the heart, we cannot ignore the importance and benefits of plant-based foods. Vegetables are an excellent source of Glutamic acid. It is a class of amino acids which helps to keep blood pressure at lower levels; safe levels, so to say. What’s more? Veggies lack cholesterol, fat and even calories, which otherwise tend to be the common culprits for causing heart diseases. Not to mention, the amount of vitamins and minerals that vegetables provide.
Without the aid of daily exercise, maintaining your health is a daunting task. Exercises not only improves heart function, but also helps in lowering blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in the body. A mere 30 minutes stroll daily does good for the heart. It is said that sprinting is more beneficial for the heart, than jogging.Reduce Oil
Although, you cannot avoid oil completely, you can keep its consumption to a minimum. As oils are a storehouse of calories mostly consisting of fat, they have high chances of leading to the development of plaque in the arteries. This gives rise to some nasty heart problems. However, not all types of oil are unhealthy. Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help in preventing cardiovascular diseases and reduce instances of heart attack.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people with cardiovascular disease had 30% less likelihood of heart attacks because of omega-3 fatty acids. Best sources include salmon, mackerel and herring. Flax seed, walnuts, and soybeans are also good sources.
Cut the Smoke
If you think you cannot shun the habit of smoking, then you might as well know that you cannot do anything good for your heart. One of the most severe risks of smoking relates to heart diseases in almost every smoker. Quit smoking, and you have done half the job in keeping your heart healthy!
If your figure is slim, and belly flat, then you may have less things to worry about heart diseases. I am talking about weight loss. Being overweight puts extra load on the heart, thus increasing the risk of heart conditions. So, consume less sugary foods and more fiber, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the basic necessities for a healthy heart today.
Add More Fiber
Fiber exists in two major groups; soluble and insoluble. Although both types are beneficial to health, it is the former type that does way better to reduce cholesterol levels in the body. Due to its soluble nature, it binds with the cholesterol in the intestines and keeps it from being absorbed. A healthy person requires a serving of 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day to avail this benefit of low cholesterol. Foods rich in this fiber include apples, peas, prunes, etc.
Beware of Saturated Fats
It is important that you limit the amount of saturated and trans fats you consume. These spike cholesterol levels in the body, thus increasing the risk of coronary disease. So avoid or limit consumption of food such as red meat, dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil. These are rich in saturated fatty acids. To avoid trans fats, eat less fast food, bakery products, snacks, crackers, and margarine. Go for foods rich in healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Eat Less Salt
Sodium is good for the body, but in small amounts. High salt intake means high blood pressure, which eventually points out to heart conditions. When sodium starts accumulating in the blood, it attracts water which in turn, increases the blood volume. Now to keep this blood circulating through the blood vessels, the heart has to work harder thus, causing high blood pressure. The recommended amount of sodium in the food per day must be less than 2300 milligrams.
Take the Right Medication
In most cases, heart diseases are also related to the use of drugs. So, it is important that you take medicines as prescribed by the doctor, or get them altered if necessary.
Drinking alcohol in moderate amounts does not harm the body. In fact, some studies show that moderate consumption provides some benefits for the heart. However, the habit of drinking is analogous to walking on thin ice. It is not difficult for any one to step out of his limit, and become a heavy drinker. So, ensure that either you stick to moderate drinking or you don’t drink at all.
Stress has also been known to be one of the common culprits of heart problems. Any stressful situation elevates blood pressure and this response takes its toll on the heart. So, keep yourself relaxed by practicing meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques.
Smiling for a Healthy Heart
The heart is one of the most vital organs of the body. The size of your heart is roughly equal to the size of your fist – with the thumb closed in. Now just imagine; such a tiny little pump sees to it that every drop of blood – and there are countless in 5 liters of blood – circulates through the body almost twice a day, everyday. That is indeed a lot of work, and you can imagine the amount of pressure on the heart and even the blood vessels of the body. Now just think about the amount of things, and the number of times, and the countless moments in life that we spend being upset about something – does it still seem worth it?
I said in one of my previous articles that it is only a healthy body that can host a happy mind. Today I will go on to say – converse is also true. If you are happy, you are going to feel great, and your body is going to respond to all that positive energy within itself. If you stay happy, you will feel positive about your life, more confident to tackle all of life’s challenges, and grab the bull by its horns. And one of the best ways to stay happy is to keep smiling. More smiles correspond to less frowns, which mean less tension and stress. Ultimately less pressure on the mind and body pave the way to a healthy body and a healthy heart.
Did you know that laughing actually improves your blood circulation? Take a look at yourself the next time you laugh over something – the extremities of your face – particularly your nose tip and your ears – will have probably gone red and hot! It has been proved now that laughter causes the endothelium of blood vessels to dilate. Laughing also causes the body to release nitrous oxide, or the laughing gas as it is commonly called. And what’s more – seeing someone laugh makes you smile, then grin ear to ear, and finally laugh yourself! And that is what forms the basis of Dr. Madan Kataria’s brainchild, Hasyayoga – or Laughter Yoga. The source of laughter in these groups, where laughter is an exercise rather than just an expression, is not humor. But anyone passing by one of the Hasyayoga groups would burst out laughing looking at them anyway. Increased laughter means better blood circulation, which in turn ensures the health of your body, and particularly that of your heart.
Smile and Human Psychology
A common saying in any profession related to hospitality is ‘Serve with a Smile’. Nobody likes to be welcomed by a grumpy, sullen, grouchy receptionist, be it at the doctor’s or at a five-star hotel. Have you ever noticed that most wall-clocks on display in stores show the time ten minutes past ten? If yes, have you ever wondered why? It is because the way the hands of a clock are positioned at that time make it look like a smile. Watching someone smile is contagious, and you almost involuntarily tend to smile back at the person you saw smiling. In fact, so powerful is the emotion and emotional connect, that even reading the word ‘smile’ in this article must have made you smile at some point – and if not, then me mentioning it right now must definitely have! (See, there you go!) In part this could be to do with mirror neurons found in the body. Mirror neurons are those that send out the same signals when the body is subjected to a stimulus, and even when that organism sees another organism being subjected to the same stimulus. So when we say ‘I can feel your pain’, we really can feel someone’s pain. And that is probably why when you see someone yawn, you yawn too, and while you see someone smile or laugh, you smile or laugh too. Laughter indeed is contagious.
One source of healthy dietary fat is olive oil. It is used in Mediterranean diet as a key constituent and is obtained from olive, which is a crop of the Mediterranean basin. American diet consists of unhealthy fat in a large proportion in the form of butter, cheese, mayonnaise, etc. This is why, the incidence of cardiovascular diseases is more in America as compared to Mediterranean countries. However these days, awareness about incorporating healthy fat in the food has triggered the use of olive oil in the diet. There are numerous benefits and side effects of olive oil. It can be used for cooking and seasoning. There are various types of it available in the market. The extra virgin olive oil is the best one and is recommended for people aiming at reducing high cholesterol levels.
Chemical Composition of Olive Oil
To understand how olive oil and cholesterol levels are related, let’s have a quick look at its chemical constituents. It contains:
-Free fatty acids
-Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Olive oil comprises mainly triacylglycerol molecules. Different types of fatty acids are attached to a triacylglycerol molecule. These include oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, and linolenic acid. Oleic acid is the major fatty acid making up around 55-83% of olive oil. It is a monounsaturated fatty acid i.e., a healthy dietary fat. Including olive oil in the diet increases the proportion of healthy dietary fat in the body.
Does Olive Oil Reduce Cholesterol?
The chemical composition of olive oil makes it clearly evident that this oil has more amount of healthy dietary fat as compared to harmful fat. Human heart is supplied with blood through coronary arteries. Rise in bad cholesterol level in the body results in deposition of fats in coronary arteries as well. This causes blockage in the arteries due to which the heart has to pump harder, in order to push blood through the blockage, so that it can reach to various body parts. This exerts pressure on the cardiac muscles and results in hypertension or rise in blood pressure. Rising cholesterol levels may also lead to serious heart diseases.
Use of olive oil helps in reducing cholesterol level in the body to some extent. The monounsaturated fatty acids present in it help in reducing the total cholesterol level and low density lipoprotein level in the body. Also, monounsaturated fatty acids do not lower the level of high density lipoprotein which is beneficial to the body, contrary to polyunsaturated fatty acids which may reduce HDL cholesterol. In this way, olive oil increases the content of healthy fat in the body and reduces unwanted fat. It must be kept in mind that using olive oil along with foods containing saturated fat will not reduce the bad fat content. One should replace unhealthy fat with it to gain its benefits.
The Food and Drug Administration allows the manufacturers to mention in the label that, “some evidence suggest that use of two tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the presence of monounsaturated fats in the oil”.
For those who are busy shedding kilos of weight, don’t forget that olive oil also has the same amount of calories as found in other oils. So watch out for the portion of oil you consume. If you are someone who is at a high risk of developing coronary artery disease due to high cholesterol level in the body, it isn’t a bad idea to replace unhealthy fat in your diet with healthy fat in the form of olive oil, reduce the cholesterol level, and have a healthy heart!
The human heart is the strongest, as well as the weakest, organ of the body. It is the strongest because it performs the most vital function of providing oxygenated blood to all the organs for their smooth functioning. On the other hand, it is the weakest organ because it can take pressure only in moderation, and excessive pressure may bring along a lot of health problems and diseases.
Hence, it is important to care for the heart and avoid certain things that pressurize your heart, thereby making it weaker and susceptible to diseases or even failure. Many of us are aware of some commonly-talked about things that may have damaging effects on the heart, and try to avoid them in our routine. However, there are small things like certain habits that can cause ill-effects to your heart with you being completely ignorant about it.
Therefore, instead of burning a hole in your pocket on medication, try to do away with certain habits that are the actual cause of the problem.
We all know that fruits and vegetables are the main building blocks of our diet. However, sometimes, we often tend to avoid eating them in the necessary amounts. Research has proven that people taking more than five servings of fruits per day are at lower risk of a stroke than those not consuming, or eating fruits in lesser quantities.
Although salt is an important part of a healthy diet, it is required in minimal amounts. When this amount is exceeded, it becomes toxic for the body. Furthermore, there is additional pressure on the heart to remove the toxins from the body, thereby causing the problem of high blood pressure. It further increases the risk of a stroke or heart failure.
Alcohol consumption in moderation can be advantageous for health as well as offer some enjoyable moments in life. Research has shown that the risk of stroke is lowered in people who have one or two drinks per day, as compared to people who don’t drink at all, or drink in large amounts. However, over drinking may have some really adverse effects on your heart like high blood pressure, increased risk of a stroke, and heart failure.
Too much sleep (more than nine hours) or too little (less than six hours) sleep is equally damaging to your heart. Both these extreme conditions increase blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. Insomnia, i.e., lack of sleep, leads to depression and anxiety, which further leads to high blood pressure. Also, a study carried out in the University of Chicago, in 2008, suggested a link between shorter sleep and increased coronary artery calcification (calcium buildup in the coronary arteries).
Apart from a mere nuisance, snoring can be a serious health problem associated with sleep apnea. Apnea is a disorder that is marked by interrupted breathing while sleeping, which may put pressure on the heart. Furthermore, this sleep disorder may increase the risk of heart disease. Thus, if you happen to snore and wake up feeling exhausted, contact your health care provider right away and get appropriate treatment for your snoring problem.
While expressing anger in moderation is a good way to release tension and mental pressure, frequent and explosive anger may increase the risk of heart disease. When people internalize their anger and a constant suppressed feeling of rage dwells inside, it may weaken their heart and make it susceptible to a stroke or a heart disease. Negative emotions in human beings trigger the stress-axis, and if the stress responses are activated repeatedly, they become harmful for the heart.
Everyone of us goes through ups and downs in life and experiences an emotional breakdown. However, it is extremely important how you handle these situations. If a person experiences repeated instances of emotional stress, it affects the heart in a negative way. To be more specific, stress followed by depression is associated with increased intima-media thickness (a measure of arteries), which signifies the worsening of blood vessel disease. Studies have found that depression, moreover, has some indirect contribution to heart disease. Depression fosters certain unhealthy habits like smoking and lack of exercise in some people, which further leads to problems in the functioning of the heart.
A lot of people realize that they don’t have time for themselves. Therefore, the day they find some free time, they dive into exercising and expect that it will bring them in shape and they can keep up good health. However, this is known as the weekend warrior syndrome and it will only work adversely with your body. It will cause discomfort to your body and pressurize the heart for more blood circulation, which may lead to some serious problems.
Other Habits Damaging Your Heart
▶ Overeating and eating empty calories
▶ Withdrawal from the world
▶ Assuming that you’re not at risk
▶ Eating red meat
▶ Skipping or stopping medications
▶ Watching TV
If you focus on these habits and try to get rid of them sooner, it will keep up the good health of your heart for a longer time.