According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, with an estimated 17.3 million people dying from it every year. However, we can prevent most cardiovascular diseases by addressing behavioural risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
Here are two ways you can take the high road to a healthy heart this World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation’s biggest platform for raising awareness about cardiovascular disease, including heart disease.
DON’T SIT FOR LONG PERIODS
Inactivity is the fourth biggest killer of adults, according to the World Health Organization. There have also been several clinical records that have proved a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to the human body. In fact, too much sitting can be just as bad as smoking, and as well as resulting in obesity, sitting for long periods has been linked to cancer. This is because an inactive body goes into storage mode and stops functioning as effectively as it should.
When it comes to heart health, a study quoted by a British newspaper states that for each hour a day adults spend sitting down during their lifetimes, the likelihood of developing heart disease goes up by 14 percent. So if you are involved in a job that requires you to sit for a prolonged period of time, you may well be prone to cardiac ailments.
For women over 30 years of age, being a couch potato increases risks of heart-related problems as compared to those smoking or carrying extra weight. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health conducted by University of Queensland has shown that sitting for hours and being inactive has been the main cause for cardiac issues among women.
The good news is that a mere five minutes of movement every hour prevents health dangers. In short, get up once an hour from your desk, even if it is just to walk around briefly, get a drink or go to the bathroom. Taking a walk during your lunch break or while talking on the phone and taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help you too. Plus, if you have a sedentary job, avoid sitting in front of the TV for hours on end during the evening.
And, of course, regular exercise sessions are important for preventing heart disease, as they can help make your heart muscle stronger and also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. However, you still need to ensure you don’t sit for long periods of time even if you do exercise often. When we sit for hours, enzyme changes occur in our muscles that can lead to increased blood sugar levels. The effects happen very quickly and consistent exercise won’t fully protect you.
DO FOLLOW THESE DIETARY GUIDLINES
Banin Shanine, Nutrition Manager at Fitness First Middle East, a leading health and fitness company in the region, says portion control is the easiest way to change your diet and help you live a healthier lifestyle. She explains excess food on your plate leads to excess calories and eventually to unhealthy weight gain (stored as fat). Shahine also advises people to keep saturated and trans fats (unhealthy fats) intake to a minimum, Other foods you should avoid are simple carbs, which tend to contain refined sugar, and foods high in sodium. Sodium is known for its effect on blood pressure and it increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.
According to Shanine, foods you should consume to help promote a healthy heart include vegetables and leafy greens and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) found in fish, plant oils, avocados, nuts and seeds. She also encourages eating complex carbs that are high in fibre, such as vegetables, wholegrain rice and rolled oats, which are also good for your heart. These food items will help with your digestive system and assist your body to avoid sugar spikes, she explains.