In India alone, 19,744 people in the 30-60 year age group died due to heart attacks in 2021. Across rural and urban areas, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the country. And the figures continue to rise every year.
Smoking, drinking, unhealthy diet, overeating, obesity, stress and a sedentary lifestyle are some of the reasons behind the recent spike in heart disease amongst the 30 to 45 age group in India.
The heart, along with the blood vessels and blood, forms the circulation system in your body. It is one of the most important organs keeping you alive.
What exactly is your heart? It’s a muscle, roughly the size of your fist, which is found in middle of your chest, slightly to the left. Its job is to pump blood all over your body, thus delivering oxygen and nutrition to all the cells and tissues in your body.
Five common heart diseases1. Heart Attack, also known as myocardial infarction. It is probably the most common heart disease. It occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is reduced or stopped.
2. Stroke or a brain attack takes place when the blood flow to the brain is blocked or a nerve in the brain bursts.
3. Heart Failure occurs when the heart muscle is not able to pump blood efficiently.
4. Arrhythmia or when the heart beat is irregular. It can be either to fast or too slow.
5. Heart Valve complications or a problem in any of the heart’s four valves, the aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid.
6. Congenital heart defects, or problems you are born with.
Not only does the heart govern blood circulation along with the liver, but also supplies your organs with nourishing blood. All mental activities such as thinking, intelligence, emotions, memory, and sleep fall under the umbrella of consciousness, are regulated by the heart. Harbouring any stress triggers the flight and fight response. The pulse rate quickens, and adrenaline will make your heart rate increase and blood pressure rise. So habits like excess caffeine, smoking, drinking alcohol in excess, will lead to inflammation of the blood vessels.
A healthy lifestyle can help improve the health of your heart and also prevent diseases like Type 2 diabetes and maybe even some forms of cancer.
A healthy lifestyle includes not only diet, exercise but actively cultivating a healthy mind as well. Our ability to process our emotions and respond in a healthy manner to the stress and strain of everyday living is crucial to having a healthy heart.
According to Traditional Chinese medicine the heart corresponds to grief as a negative emotion, and needs to be in a state of joy always. Diet and exercise is probably the easy part. It’s taking care of our emotions and anxieties which proves to be more difficult. Changing our habits are always helpful: it can be something as simple as going for a walk daily, spending time with your pets, yoga, making human connections, connecting with nature, journaling, listening to your favourite music, singing, dancing, breath work or meditation. The heart is also the centre of your being, housing your spirit on the physical plane. The best way to care for your heart is to listen to your inner wisdom, which is the main tool in a macrobiotic approach.
So look at what works for you and go for it. Your heart will certainly thank you for it.
Some practical dos and don’ts for a healthy heart1. Be aware of your health history
2. Eat healthy
3. Move. Remember sitting is the new smoking
4. Quit smoking
5. Monitor your blood pressure
6. Control your cholesterol levels
7. Drink alcohol in moderation
8. Learn to manage your stress
9. Maintain a healthy weight
10. Control your portion size
11. Avoid saturated and trans fats
12. Lower your sodium intake
13. Include fibre in diet
14. Good sleep
15. Meditation is a wholistic way to balance your physical, emotional and mental states and have a positive impact on heart health.
Your heart and your dietWhere diet is concerned, it has been found medically that a Macrobiotic diet is the healthiest for your heart as it helps prevent heart disease, increases lifespan and promotes healthy aging.
What is a Macrobiotic diet? Basically it is modelled on the food habits and diet of those living along the Okinawa belt in Japan which is a blue zone, considered to be healthiest people on the planet with the highest life expectancy rates in the world. The diet is characterised by its emphasis on fresh, seasonal and unprocessed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil or cold-pressed oils, don’t forget to add fermented foods.
A highlight of this diet is the near absence of red meat, animal protein of any kind, dairy and butter, sugar, hydrogenated fat, processed and refined foods. It focuses on a plant-based approach.
Some extra heart healthy foods you can include in your daily diet• Fruits and vegetables
• Whole grains like brown rice, barley, millets, buckwheat and whole or steel cut oats
• Monounsaturated fats like olive oil, vegetable and nut oils.
• Polyunsaturated fats found in certain fish like salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds
• Soybeans and soy products, especially tofu
• Lean meat and eggs (if you eat non-vegetarian foods)
Exercise is another crucial pillar in ensuring that we do not suffer from heart disease. Remember, the heart is a muscle. But what is the best kind of exercise for a healthy heart?
Aerobic exercise like brisk walking, swimming, cycling, rope jumping ensure that your heart gets a good workout. Yoga too can be very beneficial for the heart. Finally, a good night’s sleep for your body to rest and repair itself.
No matter your age, it is never too late to embrace a healthy lifestyle and prevent heart disease.
Lastly, do go and see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms – chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting. Do remember that if detected early, heart disease is easier to treat.