World Heart Day 2021: Make healthy life choices; switch to toned milk, junk sugar in coffee

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SynopsisEarlier this month, the sudden demise of TV actor Sidharth Shukla, at the age of 41, left the nation in shock.

Our heart endures it all — from heartbreaks to years of abuse due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. However, we fail to pause and think that it needs a lot of tender love and care, and, more so, during the pandemic.

Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni, Senior Consultant-Cardiac Surgeon at Global Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, said the pandemic resulted in a reduction of reporting of heart-related cases as people became more apprehensive to approach hospitals during this period.

“Only acute cases came to hospitals during the first and second wave. The conduct of routine diagnostic tests were to a minimum as well,” he said.

But Daljit Kaur, Head, Dietetics at Fortis Escorts, Okhla Road, New Delhi, said the pandemic has triggered a rise in the number of heart problems, primarily due to unhealthy eating habits.

“Heart and food are highly connected with each other. The food we eat has an impact on our body as well as the heart,” she said.

Are You Vulnerable To A Heart Condition?
Earlier this month, the sudden demise of TV actor Sidharth Shukla of ‘’Bigg Boss 13’ and ‘Balika Vadhu’ fame shocked the entire nation. He was just 41 when he succumbed to a heart attack.

Guide To Protect Your Heart

AgenciesGuide To Protect Your Heart
Dr Kulkarni said every Indian above the age of 35 should start getting preventive cardiac check-ups. The routine check-ups are mandatory if there is a family history of diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or kidney dysfunction.

The specialist said he has treated heart patients as young as 22 and as old as 95, though those in the 40-70 age bracket are the most affected.

While men are more prone to this disease, Dr Kulkarni said women have almost similar incidences of heart disease after crossing the child-bearing age He also said the trend of smoking among younger women might make them more susceptible to the disease.

“Valve diseases are common in young females,” he added.

Some common life-threatening heart conditions are heart attacks, valve dysfunction, leakage of valve, aneurysm and even tumours of heart. “Each symptom depends on the type of the disease.”

Heart conditions don’t spare even the little ones. In children, a hole in the heart or blue baby syndrome is common.

Factors That Can Hurt Your Heart
For years, experts have warned about an invisible evil called stress. Whether it’s burnout due to work pressure or personal worries, long-term exposure to stress in any form — social, psychological, emotional or financial — can be deadly.

Dr Kulkarni pointed out that stressful situations like playing an intense game or indulging in high-adrenaline activities can also negatively affect the heart.

“These instances can create microscopic injuries in the blood vessels, which can then act as precursors of plaque formation and cholesterol deposits,” he said.


iStockLong-term exposure to stress in any form — social, psychological, emotional or financial — can be deadly.Prolonged stress can also lead to risk factors like obesity, hypertension and diabetes, which can further alter a heart’s behaviour. “It can cause dysfunction of the ventricular muscle,” Dr Kulkarni added.

Kaur of Fortis said a lot of young adults have been suffering from hypertension due to work pressure. “Hypertension is not good for the heart and body as it can lead to stroke and cerebrovascular accidents.”

However, blaming the vulnerability of the heart on stress alone is not correct. What you eat and drink also has a major role to play.

Intake of excessive greasy and processed food can have lasting negative effects on the body.

Listing out the strict no-nos in a dietary routine, Kaur advised people to limit the consumption of fried food, saturated fats, aerated drinks, red meat, alcohol and extra salt and sugar.

“Junk foods are bad for the heart. Unhealthy, greasy food can lead to atherosclerosis (a condition where plaque starts settling inside arteries) and heart problems,” she said.

Dr Kulkarni pointed out that a common condition in Indian patients, metabolic syndrome, was often caused due to consumption of food items rich in carbohydrates, cholesterol and fats, and low on proteins.

“Metabolic syndrome is defined as high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, pre-diabetes state and hypertension. Familial triglycerides disease and other fat metabolism diseases can give rise to early and progressive atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks and paralysis,” he added.

Guide To Eating Right
A deficiency in micronutrients such as Vitamin B12 and D3 can be linked to heart diseases as it can accelerate the deposition of cholesterol in the blood vessels.

Suggesting a proper, healthy cholesterol ratio, Dr Kulkarni recommended a protein intake of one gram per kilogram of food daily for normal people, and up to one-and-a-half to two gram per kilogram of food per day for athletes. Ensuring this ratio would help in keeping carbohydrates and fat intake in check, he said.

​Healthy Eating

AgenciesHealthy Eating
Kaur said alcohol has the ability to increase the heart rate and affect the central nervous system. When consumed in excess, it can lead to high intake of calories and sugar. She recommended capping alcohol intake to 30-60 ml twice a week.

People who like to kick-start their day with a morning cup of joe must limit their caffeine intake. “Coffee is good for the heart as long as it is consumed in moderation, without sugar and with low-fat milk,” she said.

Avoid sugary and aerated drinks containing empty calories that don’t make you feel full for long.

Fried food, saturated fats, full-cream milk and other dairy products contain more fat than required and are bad for the heart. Instead, add vegetables and fruits to your plate as they contain essential vitamins, fibers and minerals.

Non-vegetarian food items contain more fat and cholesterol. People can opt for lean cut chicken and fish.

Moderation Is Key
Living is like driving. You have to focus on the road ahead but keep your risks to a minimum, said Dr Kulkarni.

Emphasising on moderation, he recommended managing the risk factors as that can reduce, even nullify, the chances of a sudden cardiac death. “Take regular breaks from your hectic work, and maintain an exercise schedule without losing focus on the healthy aspects that life has to offer,” he added.

You only have one heart, keep it hale and hearty.

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