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Getting To The Heart Of The Matter: The ABCs Of A Healthy Heart

posted on 7/11/2016 Facebook Facebook

Heart disease is now the world’s leading cause of death, claiming more than 17 million lives each year. India has seen a rapid transition in its heart disease burden over the last few decades. According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1.7 million hearts stop beating every year in India. Cardiovascular diseases have emerged as India’s top killer and are recognized as a growing threat. 

Currently, the key challenges that face cardiac care in India are inadequate facilities, accessibility, the price tag attached to efficient and effective treatment, and lack of awareness of non-communicable diseases. However, we cannot overlook factors playing a role behind these rising numbers such as lifestyle habits, unhealthy or poor nutrition, and rapidly evolving socio-economic determinants like access to healthcare. Taking all these facts into account, an urgent need for preventative measures is the need of the day. With science now telling us that most heart diseases can have a genetic pre-disposition, we might be able to prevent most of these diseases if we know our risk in advance. 

So, lets’ look at some basic ground rules for keeping your heart healthy. They are as simple as these ABCs:

1. Appropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it

2. Blood pressure control

3. Cholesterol management

4. Smoking cessation

1. Aspirin Therapy
According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks and stroke occurs due to atherosclerosis (blockages occurring from the deposition of plaques). Plaques are most often deposits of cholesterol in the inner linings or arteries and hamper the flow of blood through the blood vessels. Plaques that rupture cause blood clots to form that can block blood flow or break off and travel to another part of the body. This is called an embolism. Aspirin is a blood thinner and helps to prevent the formation of blood clots thereby protecting against a heart attack or stroke. People already suffering from heart diseases, heart attack or stroke are often prescribed aspirin to protect them from blood clots. You should not start aspirin therapy without first consulting your physician. The risks and benefits of aspirin therapy vary for each person.

2. Blood Pressure Control
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for both coronary heart disease and stroke. Although increasing blood pressure is part of aging, a healthy low salt diet, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure. Dietary salt is a significant factor in raising blood pressure in people with hypertension and in some people with normal blood pressure.

3. Cholesterol Management
While cholesterol is necessary for optimal functioning of the body, in excess it can get deposited in your arteries and can result in atherosclerosis—a type of heart disease. Elevated levels of cholesterol are also a major risk factor for type II diabetes and obesity. Hence you need to be vigilant about your cholesterol levels to keep your heart healthy. Your diet, weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco smoke all affect your cholesterol level. Make sure you are aware of your cholesterol levels especially if you have a family history of the same. 

4. Smoking Cessation
Did you know every 1 in 5 deaths from heart disease is directly related to smoking? Yes, cigarette smoking causes much more than breathing problems and lung cancer. Smoking interferes with the amount of oxygen your heart receives, is a major risk factor for high blood pressure which is directly related to heart disease, weakens your blood vessels, and also increases the tendency of blood to clot. Quit smoking today and watch the benefits yourself. 

References:
1. Ittaman SV, VanWormer JJ, Rezkalla SH. The role of aspirin in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Clin Med Res. 2014 Dec;12(3-4):147-54. doi: 10.3121/cmr.2013.1197. Epub 2014 Feb 26. Review. PubMed PMID: 24573704; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4317158.
2. Antonakoudis G, Poulimenos L, Kifnidis K, Zouras C, Antonakoudis H. Blood pressure control and cardiovascular risk reduction. Hippokratia. 2007 Jul;11(3):114-9. PubMed PMID: 19582204; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2658793.
3. Gooding HC, de Ferranti SD. Cardiovascular risk assessment and cholesterol management in adolescents: getting to the heart of the matter. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2010 Aug;22(4):398-404. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e32833a6e22. Review. PubMed PMID: 20489635; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2951679.
4. Prasad DS, Kabir Z, Dash AK, Das BC. Smoking and cardiovascular health: a review of the epidemiology, pathogenesis, prevention and control of tobacco. Indian J Med Sci. 2009 Nov;63(11):520-33. doi: 10.4103/0019-5359.58884. Review. PubMed PMID: 20075556. 

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