World Heart Day- Let's get to the 'Heart of the Matter'

World Heart Day- Lets get to the Heart of the Matter
Image by tomwieden from Pixabay

Today we celebrate World Heart Day. The idea of observing Sept 29th as a World Heart Day was conceived in the year 2000 by the World Heart Foundation to increase public awareness of heart diseases, its causes, and reduce the global disease burden.

Today we celebrate World Heart Day. The idea of observing Sept 29th as a World Heart Day was conceived in the year 2000 by the World Heart Foundation to increase public awareness of heart diseases, its causes, and reduce the global disease burden.

It is now an annual global campaign that involves individuals, communities and governments from all over the world participating in activities to bring awareness of heart disease and encourage a heart-healthy living.

The question, however, is whether the campaign has had any impact. We have awareness programs, medical advances in prevention, better health facilities and dietary guidelines but still, nothing has stopped heart diseases from becoming the leading individual cause of disease burden in India.

Cardiovascular diseases are on the rise year after year and claim over 17.9 million deaths globally every year and 85% of them are due to heart disease and stroke. It is a sad fact that people are dying of heart diseases that are totally preventable.

So with an ever-increasing population, it is imperative to spread the knowledge of risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and the ways to prevent it. It is obvious that if you don't know what to do, you will never do it.

Heart diseases are also dramatically increasing in the younger population. There was a time when the only health problem affecting the 30 and 40-year-olds was probably back pain. Cardiac problems were reserved for the 60+ years old.

So what has changed? What causes heart diseases?

Well, there are many reasons- Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, lifestyle changes, alcohol, smoking, bad dietary habits, stress, depression, insomnia, etc, and it is often seen that one leads to another.

What can be done to prevent heart diseases?

There are drugs and diets but there is nothing to beat the benefits of regular exercise. Exercise has many benefits but still very few doctors talk about it and are rarely mentioned in the doctors' prescription. Working out 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week at a moderate intensity can do wonders. It's all about calories. Not burning enough calories results in excessive fat which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle kills you slowly. It is time we start treating exercise as a medicine and remember- it doesn't cost a thing.

How does High Blood Pressure affect your heart?

Health Threats from blood pressure. Source:

Blood pressure is known to be a silent killer as sometimes it has no noticeable symptoms. When the heart pumps the oxygenated blood through the blood vessels to different parts of the body, it creates a pressure referred to as blood pressure. When the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is steadily and consistently high, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure damages the arteries significantly increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. One in 3 adults has high blood pressure in India.

So what causes High Blood Pressure?

The causes are many- Alcohol, Family history, lack of physical activity, high fat diet, high salt diet, obesity, etc. Sometimes there are no known causes.

How to improve heart health and prevent heart disease?

Keep a check your key heart numbers such as blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels, weight, and waist size.

Quit smoking

Eat a balanced diet

Regular exercise

Less alcohol. Drink in moderation

Consume more vegetables and fruits

Have less salt

Watch your weight

Reduce stress through yoga, meditation, deep breathing, etc.

Have healthy and better interpersonal relationships.

Avoid recreational drugs.

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) has an online tool to check your heart age. The test asks questions on your age, weight, and some lifestyle questions that predict the health of the heart and even the risk of having a heart disease based on the responses. Check out your heart age by clicking here

To have a broader understanding of cardiovascular diseases we contacted Dr.Ameya Udyavar, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at P.D.Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre with a list of questions.

Question. Are there any medications that one should certainly avoid while drinking alcohol?

Dr. Ameya Udyavar: Aspirin is one medicine to avoid while consuming alcohol as it can worsen acidity and cause an increased chance of bleeding via gastric ulceration. Sorbitrate can cause low blood pressure along with alcohol. Drugs like statin are used to control cholesterol and may cause a liver problem if one already has developed liver injury due to alcohol.

Q. We hear about young adults, even sportspersons dying of heart attacks. What are the symptoms one should be mindful of?

AU: One should be mindful of any chest heaviness/ or anginas pain or dyspnea on exertion. Sometimes upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating and giddiness also may be caused due to heart attacks.

Q. Heart disease is no longer a man's disease. We see more and more women being diagnosed with heart diseases. What is the reason?

AU: The reasons are the same as in men: high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, higher stress levels, lack of exercise etc. However, women tend to ignore their health more due to family responsibilities and their giving nature. This sometimes causes problems as problems are detected in late stage of the disease or may remain undetected.

Q. What is the role of hormones in cardiovascular disease? What is the advice you would give to menopausal women?

AU: Women in the premenopausal stage are protected from heart disease due to the protective effect of oestrogen hormone. However, after menopause, there is a higher prevalence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. So they need to take good care of themselves by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting checked for the risk factors.

Q. How can one raise good cholesterol? Is it true that moderate amounts of alcohol can do the trick?

AU: Exercise is the one therapy that increases good cholesterol. Aerobic exercise like brisk walking, running, swimming and cycling can increase the good cholesterol and protect the heart. Red wine is the type of alcohol which contains lots of antioxidants and so is preferred.

Q. How much exercise is good per day and how much is too much?

AU: 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise is recommended to be done every day. This should include aerobic exercise like brisk walking, running, swimming and cycling which help to improve cardiovascular fitness and reserve. One can also do a few minutes of weight training and high interval training exercise to improve fitness. There is no upper limit after which exercise may do harm. This may vary from person to person. But one should be careful to include an adequate amount of rest and recovery and sleep between exercises.

Q. How important is sleep to prevent heart disease?

AU: There is increasing evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation can be a risk factor for heart disease. A good 7-8 hours of sound sleep is advisable to ensure a healthy heart and a good energetic day.

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