Simple ways to safeguard your heart

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You may have heard them all before, but why wait for a health scare instead of slashing the risks by half?

By Deepshikha Agarwal

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Published: Thu 27 Feb 2020, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 28 Feb 2020, 1:00 AM

We follow numerous diet plans to lead a healthy life and to make the heart strong. And we do intensive research to understand the science behind this. But we tend to forget some of the simplest lifestyle changes can bring about positive changes to the heart. These steps will help reduce the risk of heart disease by half.

Sleep well: If a person doesn't get enough sleep, it could increase the risk of heart disease. Sleeping less can cause fluctuations in the blood pressure and may increase inflammations in some parts of the body. Ideally one must sleep for at least 6-7 hours per night. Sleeping well and soundly should be one of the priorities. Remember, rest calms not only your body but also the mind.

Stop smoking: Smoking can damage the lining of the arteries of the heart leading to angina. Keep children away from smoking areas. The best thing a smoker can do is to try to quit smoking. Start slowly. When you feel like smoking, divert  attention by doing something you enjoy, like having a cup of coffee, a chocolate or just going for a movie. Join no smokers' groups, support groups or even go for regular counselling and exercise. Get a diet plan crafted by a nutritionist to give support to your body from reactions.

Exercise: Regular exercise can help prevent you from becoming overweight, thus keeping the heart and blood vessels in good condition. However, it is always better to check with the doctor before you start any kind of exercise programme. Also, consult an experienced trainer or coach prior to beginning a weightlifting programme. Choose an activity you love and go for it.

Beware of salt, the monster: Canned or preserved foods, pickles, wafers and salted nuts are high in sodium and can cause hypertension. In fact, having more than 2,400mg of sodium per day per person can also cause water retention in the body, leading to bloating and discomfort. This is very common in females. Try to decrease sodium in your diet; instead add a variety of condiments and flavouring agents such as lemon, vinegar, herbs, onion and garlic to improve the palatability of the food.

Decrease stress and stay happy: Stress is one of the main villains here. Don't take yourself and your mood for granted every time. Relaxing and unwinding is one of the major requirements of the body. Try to be away from the computer and give time to yourself to engage in more off-screen activities. Keep stretching every now and then as it helps in relaxing your body. Joining yoga clubs, laughter clubs or morning walks/breakfast clubs is a good idea. Spending weekends with friends and family can be a good stress buster. Treat yourself to small staycations or holiday trips with your dear ones.

Lastly, I would recommend annual health checks which should be mandatory for everyone. Hypertension is a silent killer. One should get heart checks done keeping in mind your hereditary details. Mark your calendar every time you visit the physician.

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