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A healthy heart is the foremost necessity for a full and productive life. Today, one of three deaths around the globe is due to heart disease and stroke. Cardio-vascular diseases (CVD) account for 30 per cent of deaths worldwide and 80 per cent of CVD deaths occur in the so-called third world countries.

It is important to know that to a large extent, heart disease is preventable.

Are you one of those high-risk individuals with a family history of heart disease? Do you eat non- vegetarian food, consume alcohol, smoke continuously, and exercise infrequently and lose your cool often?


If the answer to all this is yes, watch out, doomsday is not far away.

Risk factors

Increasing age: About four of five people who die of coronary heart disease are above the age of 65. With increase in age, women who have heart attacks are more likely to die from heart disease than men.

Men have a greater risk of heart attacks than women do, and they have attacks earlier in life.

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer and other diseases, and produce irregular heartbeats.

A smokerís risk of heart attack is more than twice that of non-smokers. Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death: smokers have two to four times the risk of non-smokers and smokers who have a heart attack are more likely to die suddenly [within an hour] than non-smokers.

Individual response to stress may also be a contributing factor. Some scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a personís life, their health patterns and socio economic status.

These factors may affect established risk factors. For instance, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would.

High blood pressure increases the heartís workload causing the heart to enlarge and weaken over time. It also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. High blood pressure usually has no specific symptoms and no early warning signs. Itís truly a silent killer.

High blood cholesterol

The risk of coronary heart disease rises as blood cholesterol levels increase. When other risk factors [such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke] are present, this risk doubles. Age, sex, heredity and diet also affect a personís cholesterol level.

An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Regular, moderate-to- vigorous exercise is important in preventing heart and blood vessel disease.

Even moderate-intensity physical activities are beneficial if done regularly and on a long term basis. Exercise can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, as well as help lower blood pressure in some people.

People who have excess body fat, especially in the waist area, are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they no other risk factors.

Excess weight increases the strain on the heart, raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL [good] cholesterol levels.

Diabetes seriously increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Even when glucose levels are under control, diabetes greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sex hormones also seem to play a role in heart disease. Itís a well known fact that men have more heart attacks than women. Several population studies show that the loss of natural estrogen as women age may contribute to a higher risk of heart disease after menopause. Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to suffer from heart disease themselves. Most people with a strong family history of heart disease have one or more other risk factors.

Tips

Small changes can bring big rewards. There is no substitute for regular exercise and a balanced diet, but small improvements can add up. For instance, get off the bus or train a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. Walk around during the workday break or lunchtime. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go and speak to someone instead of using the phone or email. Stand while speaking on the phone. Schedule exercise time into your calendar. Plan outings and holidays that include exercise.

At the beach or a park, instead of lying flat, walk, run, swim, or fly a kite. See the sights in a city by walking, jogging or cycling. Dance for fun. Enjoy life!

DOíS AND DONíTS

Have a balanced diet.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

Walk regularly for at least 45 minutes 4 to 5 days a week.

Undergo regular medical check up. Watch your BP, cholesterol and sugar.

Donít smoke.

Food that are high in calories and low in nutritional value like soft drinks, sweets, pastries and cakes should be kept to a minimum.

Make sure you reduce the salt in your diet, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Do not become a couch potato.

Do not ignore symptoms like gripping pain in the chest, arms or back,

uneasiness, sweating or nausea. It can be a heart attack!