Need for understanding, prioritizing heart health: An explainer

heart and stethoscope
It is always better to consult a doctor before starting a workout regimen and to know the kinds of exercises and diet one can follow for a healthy heart. Representational image: SewCream/Shutterstock

Heart health is a growing concern in the post-modern world, with people increasingly facing the threat of various heart ailments, thanks to unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle. The rising fast food culture, the dearth of physical activities, and dietary miscalculations all contribute to erroneous heart health. However, in this article, three aspects of heart health are being discussed as explained to Onmanorama by Dr. George Thayyil.

Why are heart attacks increasingly reported among people who are obsessed with fitness and workouts?

Overworking is always dangerous. People are still not aware that the fitness of the general physique and heart health are two different things. The hearts of those who look physically fit may not be equally healthy.

Those who indulge in heavy workouts are actually overburdening their hearts. But in such contexts, the heart should be given enough time to relax and revive. Sometimes people don't bother about that and continue with an excessive fitness regimen.

Fitness enthusiasts who indulge in restless workouts may suffer from Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) and often face dangerous consequences.

Many youngsters believe that they are physically fit. Unfortunately, many of them discover their diabetic conditions or abnormal blood pressure levels only when they take medical tests conducted during some other medical emergency.

So, it's always advisable to conduct medical tests irrespective of age. Also, those who are between the age of 45-55 and have no experience of working out or exercising should indulge in heavy exercises after a medical check-up.

It is always better to consult a doctor before starting a workout regimen and to know the kinds of exercises and diet one can follow for a healthy heart.

What is the role of food in the rise of heart diseases?

Food habits are one of the most prominent reasons for obesity among youngsters.

The traditional staple foods of our region are carbohydrate-based and fat-based.

Carbohydrate-based foods are instrumental in forming LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, called bad cholesterol, in the body.

Food items that contain added sugar, euphemistically termed as white poison, also contribute to forming bad cholesterol to a great extent.

Fried foods, including French fries, doughnuts, and fried chicken, are immensely unhealthy for the heart. In commercial eateries, the oil in which food items are prepared is boiled several times. When the oil is boiled too much, it generates trans fats which affect blood vessels in the heart.

Consuming such food items excessively also leads to obesity.

Meanwhile, those who follow the ketogenic (Keto) diet, which replaces carbohydrates with fat, are also found to suffer from heart diseases. The Keto diet has been found to be one of the most failed dietary plans.

It's important to focus on food items that are rich in protein and vitamins and to include more fruits and vegetables in the menu than non-vegetarian and fried items to boost health.

Equally important is taking measures to reduce overweight by following a simple exercise and healthy dietary plan.

Why is there a rise in heart conditions among women now than before?

Women are bestowed by nature with the physical conditions associated with child-bearing that are conducive to regulating factors leading to heart diseases.

The female hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and so on keep cholesterol formation and blood vessel blocks in check and thereby decimate heart diseases except in some rare cases.

Women enjoy such protection from puberty till menopause.

However, after menopause, when the so-called 'heart-health shield' is removed, the modern lifestyle, which includes unhealthy food habits, takes a toll on them and raises the chances of heart ailments.

It's important to conduct regular medical check-ups by the age of 35-40 and follow a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activities and exercises under a health expert's direction.

Women can take care of their heart health by including enough fruits and fibre-rich vegetables in their diet and following regular physical exercises.

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