Heart to heart

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ISSUE There's a lot of awareness about heart disease and its increasing incidence among young adults. Instead of ignoring the risk factors, GEETA PADMANABHAN suggests simple ways to help add years to life

GET UP, GET MOVING Make 30 minutes of exercise part of your daily routine
GET UP, GET MOVING Make 30 minutes of exercise part of your daily routine

I t's all there in black and white and re(a)d. Nearly 25 per cent of India's young adults are at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). The age at which one gets a heart attack is plummeting. City cardios note a surge in the number of young heart patients. Diabetes, a marker for CHD, is on the upswing among the young and the old. Nearly 40 per cent of city school kids are obese. Adults are gaining abdominal fat (beer/rice belly) and that's bad news for the ticker. If all this is not enough, population studies across the world smack our families right at the heart: Indians are genetically predisposed to heart disease.

Our hearts are at risk, and not because of love. In fact, we seem to hate our heart. Or why would we spend off-work hours sitting somewhere? We don't check our weight. We eat unhealthy fried, cheese-covered, spicy junk at all hours, and quench our thirst with high-calorie carbonated drinks. We count video/Xbox games as sports. We ride bikes where we can walk. Young India, the largest part of our 120-plus crore population puffs at cigarettes and prefers the elevator to springing up the stairs. It's happening in front of our eyes. We're betraying our heart.

Oh, we've been told what to do. Don't smoke, drink less, eat light, lean heavily on coloured veggies and fruits, exercise regularly, de-stress through yoga, music and socialising, and find a good work-life balance. Cut down salt (packaged, baked food, salted nuts) and oil. We've heard them so often, it longer seems to register with us. “Yeah, I do walk down the corridor to reach my office,” we say. “Yes…I skip breakfast, grab a fruit after dinner, and sure I get two weeks off during Christmas. Our clients across the globe shut down store.” We don't play outdoor games at all.

Heart-care can wait, we think. It can't. No time? We need to adopt practices that will take a short time. Exactly what Dr. Mehmet Oz offers. “Do these in 60 seconds or less to add years to your life,” he says.

First, don't sit for long. People who sit for four or more hours a day outside work have a 50 per cent greater risk of dying from any cause than those who sit less than two hours a day. Take a minute-long walk at least once an hour. Every step counts toward the 10,000 you should be taking every day.

Eat an egg. This nutritional powerhouse provides 13 per cent of your daily protein requirement and only 4 per cent of the average recommended daily calorie count. Its lutein, an antioxidant that protects your eyes, may prevent Alzheimer's. The choline in the yolk reduces brain inflammation.

Swallow 200 micrograms of chromium polynicotinate a day. Research shows chromium, a trace mineral helps maintain proper blood sugar levels by increasing cell sensitivity to insulin, steeling your body against Type II diabetes.

Keep teeth clean. The bacteria in your teeth will infect the gums and enter the bloodstream, where they can cause inflammation in the arteries and contribute to plaque build-up on blood vessel walls. Gum disease leads to all sorts of problems.

Check pulse. Before you get out of bed, press your index and middle fingers against the inside of your wrist below your thumb and count the beats for 30 seconds. Then double that number. A rate of 90 or above triples a woman's risk of dying from heart disease. If your heart rate is high, consider adding more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.

Do self massage. Press your thumbs against the sides of your nose just below your browbone; then walk your index and middle fingers across your brows and finish by lightly rubbing your temples. Massage prompts a drop in cortisol and adrenaline and a surge in feel-good endorphins.

Don't jump on to the exercise area as a “week-end warrior”, make it part of life routine, say others. Stand up to talk on the phone. Do not internalise stress. Talk (not shout) about it, laugh it off, get social support. Keep in touch with friends and tolerable members of the family. Robert Ostfeld, MD, considers snoring (sleep apnoea) a serious heart risk. So if you snore and wake up feeling tired, talk to your doctor.

Time is muscle, not money. At the first sign of trouble go for a check-up.




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