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9 steps to a young and healthy heart

health-and-fitness Updated: Sep 30, 2007 03:58 IST

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Knowing your blood pressure or total cholesterol is not enough. Several other factors are an equal threat to heart health. If you want to keep your heart ticking loud and clear for years to come, keep these things in mind.

Control blood pressure and keep it under 130/80 mmHg. People older than 50 years, systolic blood pressure (higher number of the BP reading) of over 140 is a bigger cardiovascular disease risk factor than diastolic (lower number) BP.

Systolic BP of 120 to 139 or a diastolic BP of 80 to 89 should be considered as prehypertensive and people should opt for lifestyle modifications to prevent heart disease.

Reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) to under 100 mg/dl.

Raise High density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) to over 45 mg/dl for men and over 55 mg/dl for women.

Control triglycerides and keep them below 150 mg/dl. If triglycerides are over 500, lower them to reduce your risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) before taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Quit smoking to cut back the risk of heart attack by 50 per cent.

Opt for a high-fibre diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free products, fish, pulses and legumes, and unsaturated oils such as mustard, ricebran, olive, sunflower, corn, and rapeseed.

Get on your feet and exercise for at least 30 to 40 minutes each day. Do a combination of aerobic exercises such as brisk walks (speed of at least 4 km/hour), yoga and weight training.

Lose weight Extra weight means that the heart has to work harder to supply blood to the body. A weight loss of 10 per cent or more lowers blood pressure and the levels of triglycerides in the blood. In children, excess weight makes them three to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke before they reach the age of 65.

Take prescription medication if lifestyle changes are not making a difference to your readings. for example, if your LDL is still too high after about 12 weeks of diet and exercise, consider taking medication to lower it.

For most people, the first choice is cholesterol-lowering statin drugs that reduce LDL by 18 to 55 per cent, trim triglycerides by 7 to 30 per cent, and push up HDL by 5 to 15 per cent.

Those with a metabolic syndrome with high triglycerides and low HDL may be better off with niacin or fibric acid drugs.