Do you know that 17.2 million lives are lost each year due to heart disease and stroke? 80% of these deaths could have been averted merely by controlling the risk factors of heart disease. According to statistics, 40% of those who get a heart attack die even before they make it to the hospital. Is it possible to reverse this trend?
Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death worldwide. Awareness of risks is the first step in the prevention of heart disease. World Heart Day 2009 which falls on September 27th, 2009 is a day dedicated to creating awareness about the risks of heart disease and ways to prevent it. The theme for the day 'Work with Heart' is a clarion call to wake up and take stock of 'what works for your heart and what does not' before it is too late.
Many millions of productive years are lost due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), which can be the 'unkindest cut of all' during the present financial crisis. It is being widely recognized that employee health is crucial to achieve key organizational objectives. Therefore, organizations have begun to include health promotion as part of their corporate plan.
The low and middle income countries from where nearly 80 % of CVD deaths occur need to implement healthcare practices in the workplace and reverse the trend of premature deaths.
Are you at risk of heart disease?
Evaluating one's risks of heart disease is an eye opener and can help avert potential heart disease. Risks of heart disease can be of two types - those that are beyond our control and those that we can do something about.
Risks beyond your control
Genetic conditions significantly predispose heart disease risks. Coupled with a bad lifestyle, the risks can simply go up many times. Some of the uncontrollable risks are:
• Old age
• Family history of heart disease
• Post-menopausal women
• Males prone to risks
• Race (Mexican Americans, African Americans, American Indians, South Asians, Indians and Pakistanis are a vulnerable lot)
Risks under your control
• Elevated levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol and low levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol
• Untreated hypertension
• Anger and aggression
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Untreated diabetes
Work with your heart
A healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of heart disease prevention which revolves around good habits, diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes such as these have been proved to lower the risk of heart disease.
1. A Heart Healthy Diet comprises of foods low in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium and refined sugars. Vitamins and nutrient rich foods should be consumed in ample quantities. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts lower the risk of heart disease. Antioxidants hold the secret to a healthy heart.
2. Get Moving - Those who lead sedentary lives without exercise suffer increased risk of heart disease, compared to those who engage in moderate forms of physical activity. It is important to exercise at least 30 minutes in a day for cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic exercise like brisk walking, swimming cycling, and jogging are good to promote cardiovascular fitness, though medical advice should be sought before commencement of any exercise program.
3. Control Hypertension - This is crucial to offset risks of heart disease. The best way to control blood pressure is through diet, exercise, weight management and medication (as prescribed by a specialist).
4. Quit Smoking - Smokers carry double the risk of having a heart attack as compared to non smokers. Passive smokers are also in the risk category. Never be tempted to smoke and if you do, simply quit.
5. Improve Cholesterol Levels - The risk for heart disease escalates with increase in total cholesterol. The cholesterol reading for healthy adults should be below 200 mg/dl. HDL, which is called as the good cholesterol, should be above 40 mg/dl in men and 50 mg/dl in women, the higher the better. For healthy adults, LDL should be below 130 mg/dl.
A diet which is low in cholesterol, saturated and trans fat is the best way to keep bad cholesterol at bay. Exercise is a must to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of good cholesterol. In some cases, doctors prescribe medications to help manage unhealthy cholesterol levels.
6. Control Diabetes - Uncontrolled diabetes can cause heart damage. Diabetes can be controlled by taking appropriate medication, following a strict diet, exercise and weight management.
7. Weight Management - Excess weight is a strain on the heart. Excessive weight increases the risk of many other chronic illnesses. High cholesterol and triglycerides, diabetes, and high blood pressure are conditions, which can be triggered due to excessive weight gain. Appropriate lifestyle changes to include healthy diet and exercise may be the best way to knock off weight gain.
8. Manage Stress and Anger - Anger and stress escalate chances of heart attack and stroke. Appropriate coping strategies to reduce stress and anger can lower heart attack risks. Anger management and relaxation techniques can go a long way in improving heart health.
Work 'wholeheartedly' with your heart so that your heart works for you and never lets you down! Let us attack heart disease with gusto and say goodbye to heart disease. Happy World Heart Day!