The World Heart Federation, World Health Organisation and UNESCO jointly celebrate “World Heart Day”(WHD) every year on the last Sunday of September with the aim of raising awareness about and preventing Heart Attack (Ischemic Heart disease-IHD) in all its stages — primordial, primary, secondary and tertiary.

The theme of the 10th World Heart day this year, “I Work with Heart”, implies that one has to make an effort and work wholeheartedly with passion to enable the heart to work efficiently for a long time.

Staying focussed

Being aware of the “Power of now” and “Staying in the moment” in the workplace can alleviate the anxiety and frustration of the past and the future. Workplace wellness and taking responsibility for one's own heart health have to be emphasised. Changing negative lifestyles and harmonising our existence with an optimistic outlook will go a long way towards protecting our heart and ensuring good health.

The WHD awareness programme is timely and essential to us as India is fast becoming the world leader in heart attacks and Diabetes Mellitus. Indians are more prone to heart attack, four-fold more than Westerners and 20-fold more than the Japanese. Yearly, 30 million Indians sustain heart attack, of which 90 succumb every hour, and this statistics alarmingly includes 25- to 30-year-olds.

Heart attack is a lifestyle disease and is preventable. Lifestyle is nothing but certain attitudes to life and behaviour of an individual driven by a mindset.

Stress is a reaction of body and mind to the environment. Keeping stress at the positive side of pendulum (“positive stress”) enhances physical and mental function and enables a person to think and work effectively. Contrary to this, if the pendulum swings to the negative side, it triggers a negative Psycho-neuro-humoro-viscero-immune chain reaction, ending in excess pumping of fright, flight and fight hormones (Adrenaline, Nor adrenaline and Cortisol ) into the blood circulation, resulting in high blood pressure, Diabetes Mellitus, elevation of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease in good cholesterol (HDL). A negative lifestyle of mental stress, overeating, obesity, sedentary life, smoking and alcohol abuse triggers an excess release of oxygen-free radicals like Superoxide, Hydroxyl and Hydrogen Peroxide which damage all body tissues. Abdominal obesity along with Diabetes Mellitus, high blood pressure and high cholesterol forms a dangerous complex, “Syndrome X”.

All these culminate in the blocking of coronary arteries by any of the following three mechanisms and thereby lead to heart attack:

1. Narrowing of coronary arteries by atheromatous plaque — deposit of excess cholesterol

2. Erosion or rupture of the plaque leading to instantaneous blood clot — atherothrombosis

3. Acute Coronary Spasm — Sudden temporary narrowing of heart's blood supply

A positive lifestyle increases the secretion of hormones of wellbeing such as endorphins, melatonin and serotonin and plays a major role in primary prevention of heart attack as well as in reversing the blocked coronary arteries, however severe it may be, in the course of six to 12 months.

Coronary interventions like stenting and by-pass surgery are only temporary measures; the permanent cure is possible only through effective lifestyle modification.

Some tips to keep in mind:

Waist circumference should be less than 90 cm for men and 85 cm for women; “Shorten your waist line – lengthen your lifeline”

Food habits: Do not eat more than you need. Ideally the stomach should be half full with food, quarter full with water and quarter part empty…

The rate of heart attack is highest between 5 and 8 a.m. You can avoid it by getting to sleep for 6 to 8 hrs and planning ahead the day's work with calmness.

Positive lifestyle can be achieved by self-realisation and meditation for 15 minutes/day.

Life is a pleasant journey.

Life is like a stringed musical instrument and the “music of life ” can be enjoyed only by constant “fine tuning of the mind”.

Remember, the three mantras for a healthy heart are positive thinking, healthy eating habits and adequate exercise.

Ten commandments for a healthy heart

Positive attitude with balanced approach to life, avoiding negative mental stress and strain

Healthy balanced food intake of at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, avoiding saturated fats and trans fatty acids

Regular aerobic exercise of 30 minutes every day

Maintenance of optimal body weight (body mass index (BMI) below 25) especially avoiding abdominal obesity.

Avoid excess salt intake to maintain normal blood pressure.

Say no to tobacco in any form including passive smoking

Say no to alcohol

Include physical activity in your working schedule – cycle to work if possible, take the stairs, and go for a walk during lunch breaks

Workplace wellness should be promoted by incorporating relaxation techniques like stretching and meditation

Know your numbers — visit a healthcare professional to know your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels – keep all below 100 (mean BP<100mmHg, LDL cholesterol<100mg, fasting blood glucose<100mg)

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