World Heart Day: This is how to take care of your heart during COVID-19

Modern India is facing the rising burden of heart diseases as no other disease kills more Indians than cardiac ailments. Heart disease has emerged as the deadliest killer in both Indian males and females. In India, nearly 52% of heart disease-related deaths occur in people below the age of 70 years. This increasing burden can be explained by the alarming rise in the increased prevalence of smoking – one of the major risk factors for heart disease. In the current pandemic situation, taking care of your health is extremely important especially when the physical activity is at its lowest along with most of the gyms being shut. Most important, the mortality rates of Covid-19 are higher among patients with lifestyle diseases. 

Heart attacks are unpredictable. But the odds of heart disease are raised by a higher level of LDL. Elevated LDL, the bad cholesterol, raises your chances of a heart attack. That’s because of the build-up of fatty deposits within the walls of arteries. This reduces or blocks the blood and oxygen flow to your heart and eventually leads to a heart attack.  Low LDL protects your heart health. It is important to know that all cholesterol is not bad! Some types of cholesterol are essential for good health. HDL is good cholesterol. High HDL and low LDL make your heart strong. However, there also have been studies claiming an increasing number of adverse events with low and extremely low LDL levels. A person may have a whole range of other conditions smoking, diabetes which could increase this risk. In simple words- You may be at an increased risk of heart attack, despite high HDL and low LDL. There may be other risk factors that put your heart health at risk. So, it becomes a mandate to follow a lifestyle that makes our “HeartStrong”.   “Maintaining a healthy heart is important during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Since most of the people are confined to their homes for an extended period, change in lifestyle during lockdown is inevitable, leading to isolation, lack of exercise, which in turn causes more mental stress or anxiety, and even lower immunity. Exercise is essential for heart health and psychological wellbeing too. With Covid-19, and uncertainty around it is very important to control the stress which increases inflammation, raises your cholesterol and blood sugar, increases blood pressure and even makes your blood more likely to clot”, says Dr. G P Ratnaparki, Interventional Cardiologist at Holy Spirit Hospital, Mumbai. Get to know about your heart risk:  Having a family history of Cardio-Vascular diseases – If you had a family history of heart conditions then it’s all the more important to keep your diet and exercise in check on the advice of your family doctors. Hypertension predisposes you to cardiac issues- High blood pressure puts you at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  Keep your blood sugar in check – People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes. If you are diabetic then keep a close eye on the blood sugar levels. If you have not got your blood sugar levels checked kindly do it today.   Being overweight increases cardiovascular disease risk- The long-term risk of diabetes and high blood pressure significantly increases with obesity. Not only this, obese people are more likely to have heart disease and stroke. Visit your provider to get check your body mass index (BMI) today to tell whether you are at a normal weight, or have obesity. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease.  A sedentary lifestyle contributes to Cardio-Vascular risk- Young people in India are mostly spending time at home due to work from home and having no physical activity. And older teens and children are busy watching TV and using smart gadgets like iPhones. The time is crucial now, prioritize and take physical activity seriously, no matter how busy you are. Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily to avoid health risks. 5 Make your heart strong with the help of the following:  Get active- Regular exercise makes your heart muscles stronger and it works more efficiently. According to the American Heart Association, exercising 30 minutes a day five days a week will improve your heart health. They define “physical activity” as anything that makes you move your body and burns calories. This includes climbing stairs, playing sports, walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and more. 

Maintain a healthy body weight-Maintaining a healthy body weight helps you reduce the risk of a heart attack. In diabetics, weight management becomes more important. This is because obesity in combination with diabetes is a deadly combination that leads to increased heart disease risk. 

Maintaining an ideal body weight has been recommended for people with diabetes. In general, diabetics should set realistic weight goals and aim for moderation – eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, being more physically active, and keeping food records along with blood glucose records is the best approach.  By doing this, you can keep your blood glucose levels under optimal control. However, medications can be added or adjusted when needed.

Set BP goals – Check your BP at regular intervals and try to maintain your BP below 140/90 mm Hg. If you have blood pressure above this level then you need to contact your doctor. 

Take your medicines to protect your heart- Take your medicines such as blood cholesterol-lowering drugs as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t stop taking these without checking with your doctor first. 

Eat right- Keep high blood sugar in control- Test your blood sugar regularly. Consult your healthcare provider for the A1C test and keeping blood sugar levels under control. Also, pay attention to what you eat; eat home-cooked food that is rich in nutrition. A diet low in saturated fats and sugars will help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your chance of having heart disease. Select lower fat dairy products and poultry (skinless). Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat. Along with this, a good regular exercise will help.

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