Your guide to a healthy heart

FOR many years, cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of hospital mortality in Malaysia. This year’s World Heart Day theme focuses on “Workplace Wellness” and it is all about taking responsibility for your own heart health.

Cardiovascular disease is largely preventable with some simple risk factor management:

Diet and lifestyle factors

There are a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including:

• Obesity

• Diabetes

• Coronary heart disease in a close relative before the age of 60

• Smoking

• Elevated blood cholesterol and triglycerides

• Physical inactivity

• High blood pressure

A preventive strategy for minimising risk would involve basic changes to diet and lifestyle, such as to:

• Eat a healthy diet

• Implement an appropriate exercise regimen

• Eliminate obvious risk factors such as smoking

• Maintain a healthy body weight

There is a strong association between diet and cardiovascular disease. The so-called “Mediterranean diet” is high in olive oil, oily fish, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts and is associated with low cholesterol and a lower risk of disease.

Diet for a healthy heart

Eat more:

• Seasonal fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, green salads, broccoli, zucchini, onions, Chinese greens, cabbage (red and white), potato, pumpkin, sweet potato

• Fresh fruits

• Fresh herbs for example parsley, coriander, ginger, dill, basil, garlic

• Sea vegetables (an excellent source of minerals) such as nori, arame, wakame

• Wholegrain cereals such as rice, oats, wholewheat bread and pasta, millet, buckwheat, barley

• Deep-sea fish – for example trevally, cod, mackerel, salmon, sardines

• Legumes (these are an excellent source of fibre and protein) lentils, kidney beans, haricot beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas

• Free range poultry and eggs

• Soy foods (an excellent source of protein) for example tofu, tempeh

• Lean red meats two to three times per week

• Nuts and seeds – a small amount can provide beneficial fats and nutrients for example almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds

• Liquids – six to eight glasses of filtered water per day, green tea, herb teas such as chamomile, peppermint

Eat less:

• Dairy foods – should be low fat

• Refined white flour products – white bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, sugar

• Table salt

• Saturated fats (butter, matured cheeses, fatty meats) and fried foods

• Coffee, tea, colas and other stimulants should be kept to a minimum

Exercise more

Exercise is extremely important for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system and should be part of the daily regime.

Tips to relieving work stress

Get organised

– The mind is not the most efficient engine on Earth when it comes to recalling a myriad of competing tasks, so note them down and assign each a priority.

Limit interruptions

– Taking personal calls at work? This is fine occasionally, but don’t get into big catch-ups on work time. It will take you that much longer to get back in the zone.

Politely explain to friends or family that you’re working and will return their call that evening, or even on the weekend.

Drink up

– Keep the brain hydrated as it is easier for your grey matter synapses to transmit information. If you feel yourself getting sluggish upstairs, remember to drink around 1.5l of water a day.

Talk it over

– If you have a manager and are not handling your workload, bring it up. The solution could be as simple as delegating or providing you with some de-stressing time in lieu. Sometimes we can be prone to mulling on things for too long and problems can seem much larger than they are.

Walk it off

– Exercise by walking. The stress-busting benefits of getting active are well known. Find something you enjoy and schedule it into your calendar. That way it becomes a date – one you’re less likely to break.

10 tips to a happy heart

1. Choose fish

Cold-water fish which contain protective omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular health problems. Among the best choices are wild salmon, sardines and herring.

2. Get in your exercise

Aerobic activity helps maintain heart health. Walking is inexpensive and a popular way to stay fit – all it takes is a little motivation and a comfortable pair of shoes.

3. Control waistline

Make sure you have more low-fat, high-fibre and low sugar foods than other types, and choose more low-fat and fat-free dressings, condiments, sauces and table spreads instead of full-fat ones.

4. Take vitamin E

Vitamin E is a well-known protective nutrient for the cardiovascular system that may reduce the risk of serious cardiovascular complaints.

5. Eat more fish

Consider taking CoQ10 and fish oil for their antioxidant and vessel protecting qualities.

6. Get smart about smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but that risk can be reduced by stopping smoking at any age.

7. Go red

Red wine contains antioxidants and flavonoids, and has been associated with heart protection.

8. Not that sinful

Pure dark chocolate contains a very high amount        of catechins (a heart healthy antioxidant). Enjoy        it with black grapes and wash it down with a        beverage containing natural cocoa powder or tea, additional excellent sources of these heart healthy compounds.

9. Have a hearty laugh

Very few things in life are better than a good laugh and it turns out that laughing heartily is good for the heart. Enjoy the lighter side of life with family and friends.

10. Manage stress well

Be proactive and address issues as they arise. Try exercises such as yoga, which gives you both a mental and physical lift.

·This article is courtesy of Blackmores.

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