Your lifestyle determines your heart's health. Here are some simple tips to help you keep your heart beating strongly.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that India is likely to emerge as the global capital of heart diseases by 2025. India needs to work overtime to combat this problem as by then we may not have sufficient hospitals, doctors or para-medical professionals to tackle the situation.

It is commonly believed that heart diseases are caused by wrong eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. This is partially true. However, heart diseases related to mechanical faults in the septum, or valve of the heart are NOT a consequence of the above. It is one's lifestyle that determines the health of the individual's heart.

Crucial aspects

Three aspects of one's behaviour and practices determine a healthy heart. One is physical activity. Everyone needs to do some sort of physical exercise for at least 150 minutes a week to maintain a healthy heart. Two is to avoid or minimise stress levels. Stress is a major killer and can be tackled by simple techniques as breathing, seeing nature, playing with kids, doing Sudoku or even listening to music. All one needs to do is devote only 10 to 15 minutes to any of the above diversionary activities. Three, is the food one eats.

It is often believed that a hearty meal is not always a healthy meal and a healthy meal is not always a tasty meal. A hearty meal does not mean only fried foods, hi-calorie sweets and desserts and, more specifically, fried root vegetables. A salad bowl can be made very tasty spiced with oregano, basil, lime, orange juice. A little olive oil or roasted almonds also can enhance the taste. Five servings of fruit or vegetables a day is the prescription for a healthy life and a healthy heart. Most of us do not even have one and a half servings in a day. India has a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, which can help create tasty dishes, with no or very little oil. Why don't we make use of it?

No substitute

Non-vegetarian foods like fish and chicken should be in gravy form and can replace pulses or dhal in a vegetarian menu. Red meat must be restricted. Remember, non-vegetarian food can never replace vegetables. A tasty, balanced meal is the perfect way to a healthy heart.

Quick tips

Start your day with a fruit.

Have another fruit at breakfast.

At each meal have one cup of vegetable or more.

Snack on yet another fruit for the evening.

At dinner, add another cup of vegetable or fruit serving.

Use different kinds of vegetables, beans, green leafy vegetables, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, pumpkin, ash gourd, brinjal in your daily menu.

The writer is a Chennai-based Consultant Dietician. E-mail:


Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012