Matters of the heart: Five steps towards a healthy you

  • Kavita Devgan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2015 14:33 IST

Gone are the days when people would visit the doctor only after several symptoms would show up. Preventive care is the need of the hour, and people don't shy away from getting regular check-ups.

As the world observes World Heart Month in February, we tell you how to love your heart in simple ways. Caring for your heart doesn't take much effort, what you need is the right information to keep it healthy. Here are five simple steps that can go a long way in keeping your heart healthy and fit.

Mind your plate
Stop cutting down on butter and ghee in your diet. "Research shows that saturated fat (SF) does not lead to heart diseases. So, the new mantra is- don't ban SF, just go easy on it," states Hetal Pandya, head nutritionist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.

Keep your heart healthy with good food (Photo: Shutterstock)

While making your salads, sprinkle some olive oil on the greens. A new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad, has reported that fusion of healthy fats in olive oil is beneficial for the heart by reducing the bad cholesterol levels in our blood. And make sure you begin your day by eating two cloves of garlic that have been crushed and left aside for a few minutes; it helps lower bad cholesterol.

Snack smart
Instead of munching on chips, have an apple or a pear in between your meals. According to a study published in an issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who eat apples or pears regularly have a decreased risk of dying from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease. The researchers attribute these heart-healthy benefits to compounds known as flavonoids, which help reduce bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Try pears poached in wine to get a double dose of flavonoids.

And makes sure you have some almonds and walnuts every day. They are packed with good fats, Vitamin-E and calcium. A study conducted at the University of Toronto, Canada, sometime back, suggested that eating about an ounce of almonds each day can lead to a decrease in LDL cholesterol by as much as 20% over time. "Walnuts are a great choice too; Vitamin-E in these nuts is in a form (gamma-tocopherol) that is heart protective; plus it is loaded with Omega-3, which helps lower bad cholesterol LDL levels, and up the good cholesterol HDL," says Pandya.

Healthy tip: Have five almonds and four halves of walnuts every day.

Get moving
You don't really need to exercise too much to get the benefits of exercising according to a study published in the Journal of the American College Of Cardiology. It reports that running as little as five to 10 minutes a day could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 45%. And even if you have never exercised earlier, now's the time to start. According to a study done in France, the benefits of exercise are evident in those who start training before the age of 30 or after the age of 40. It is equally important not to sit for too long, as that apparently increases risk of heart-failure, even for those who exercise regularly, according to a research published in the American Heart Association journal 'Circulation: Heart Failure' in 2014.

Running as little as five to 10 minutes a day could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 45% (Photo: Shutterstock)

Please chuck the soda
People who drink soda every day - even diet soda - are more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease. That is because they increase the risk of developing a condition called metabolic syndrome that in turn boosts the risk of heart diseases and diabetes both. "Even one soda per day increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by about 50%," writes Ramachandran Vasan, MD, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, USA, and the senior author of the study, published in the journal Circulation. Plus you tend to gain a lot of weight because of the extra "liquid calories" in aerated drinks, which is another direct risk factor for your heart.

Choose the right grains
A new report published by Japanese scientists shows that white rice has some heart healthy compounds. "Insoluble fibre found in whole wheat, wheat bran, seeds, barley, couscous, and brown rice is a known friend for the heart, too.

Adopt heart-friendly food habits (Photo: Shutterstock)

And oats work almost like nature's broom, literally whisking excess cholesterol out of the system. The antioxidant compounds (avenanthramides) unique to oats help keep our heart in the pink," adds Pandya. It is advisable to eat good grains in rotation.

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