10 Things to Help You Improve Your Heart Health

Did you know? One in every third person is killed by a Heart Attack in India. That’s a scary statistic. Here’s another statistic, smoking cigarettes increases your risk to a heart attack by 12 percent! Don’t be a statistic. If you want to lower your risk to heart disease, then here are science-backed ways to improve your heart health.

Listen to Music

Yes! You read that right. Listening to the music you love lowers blood pressure and your heart rate. The tempo matters here so if you are a heavy metal fan that will only increase your blood pressure. Listen to soft, mellow music that relaxes you and calms you down.

Stop Stressing so much

Stress has become the new normal. People easily accept it coming from work, finance, traffic, people relationships. But did you know? All this stress increases your risk of heart disease by 40 percent! If you experience office stress, take the time to reflect on what is causing you stress, identify the triggers and deal with them. You can also reflect on your personal relationships and see if any of those need mending, your love, and support to thrive.

Eat Chocolate

If you are die hard for chocolate, then this must be great news for you! Countless studies reverberate the same notion. Dark chocolate helps you reduce blood pressure. The cocoa in the chocolate is rich in antioxidants and the flavonoid compound helps create more nitric oxide in your body. This element helps your blood walls to relax and open wider. That’s how you lower blood pressure.

Drink Protein Shakes

Whey protein is plant protein and consuming 56gm a day of protein improves our heart health. It reduces the risk of heart attack by 8 percent. Now that’s a good chunk, considering how delicious and healthy your breakfast shakes will be when you add fresh or frozen fruit along with whey in it.

Go Easy on the Salt

If you like salty foods or too much salt in your sabzi then you need to think twice. Excess salt in your blood causes damage to your blood vessels, constricting them this increases the blood pressure, giving you high BP. There is sodium in salt and high sodium consumption is a major red flag for your heart. Ditch processed foods with sodium and eat fresh food sprinkled with natural salt.

Stay Hydrated

When your body is deprived of fluids, especially water, your heart has to work double time to make up for it. Your heart’s job is to pump blood in and out of your blood vessels to remove toxins and purify your blood. You need to stay hydrated by drinking more water every day. If you do workout, then it’s even more important to hydrate. Sip water instead of gulping down water only after meals. Bonus point? Water helps your skin, hair and fights bad breath too. It’s good for you in every other way.

Be Heart Strong with Running

Running is great for your heart health. If you ever thought of running as an exercise, then this is your cue to do it today. When you run, if improves your coronary arteries’ flexibility. This boosts the blood flow. Therefore, no lumps are formed in your arteries. Blocked arteries lead to heart attack. You don’t have to run 20 kilometers every day. Walking is just as good.

Have more Sex!

Sex can tire you out, it can excite you, increase your heart rate and blood pressure, but the great thing about sex is that it reduces the risk of heart disease by 50 percent because of all the happy hormones released by having sex. These hormones help you relax, reduce stress, improve relationships and help you get better sleep.

Get Adequate ZZZZs

Sleep deprivation contributes to high blood pressure, and that contributes to increased risk of heart disease too. You can stay active all day and go to sleep at least by 10.15 pm to get a full night’s rest. Improve our sleeping environment by dimming the lights, keeping away from smart devices and installing heavy curtains to block out external heat and light.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

The wearable revolution has made this so easy for you. Check it as often as you can remember and see if it goes above 120/80. After the age of 35, you have to schedule and learn your numbers with a full physical checkup. This should raise a flag and you must go see your doctor to discuss your options.

 

How Digital Health Technology Is Changing Heart Health

Blame it on rising stress levels, erratic lifestyles, or anything else you can think of, but there is no getting away from the fact that heart health is causing much concern for people across the globe. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are affecting young and old and are the number one cause of deaths – approximately 17.5 million people died from CVD (i.e. 31% of all global deaths) in 2012. Such striking figures explain why it is all the more necessary to become aware of the reality and start taking productive steps towards countering the risk factors.

Access to Health Data

Thankfully, with the advent of technology, it can be easy to at least have access to one’s health data. To think of it, it is actually the biggest benefit to be gained from technology, especially digitisation. Digital health technologies allow a person to stay informed of vital stats and then if need be, seek medical assistance. For instance, there is Mobile Health or mHealth as it is popularly known. It involves making use of mobile communication devices to stay informed of any health changes occurring in the body. One can use mobile apps to keep a track of dietary habits, sleep patterns, and fitness levels. As more and more people opt for better Internet connectivity through 3G and 4G networks and the reach of smartphones expands further, the reach of mHealth or rather digital health is rapidly increasing.

Unlike the typical perception of technology being too complicated, several of these health technology apps are simple to navigate. There is the largely popular Fitbit to track fitness progress, smart watches which can be paired with heart monitors, weighing scales, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices for tracking health data, and finally the mobile text messaging interventions (TMIs). Such wearable technology is proving to be highly resourceful for bettering the heart health of millions of people. So much so, that according to the World Economic Forum by 2022, one in every 10 people will be wearing clothes connected to the Internet or the ‘wearable Internet. This has to mean that digitising the health world is feasible.

Healthcare has become participatory

How is then digital technology really helpful?

  • First, there is real-time data available and it can be corroborated with a person’s previous health records. Thus, understanding why a health scare might have occurred is quicker for a doctor or at other times, preventive measures can already be employed.
  • Digital technology allows the doctors to gather data, diagnose, identify possible lacunae, etc. even before the patient arrives at the hospital. So there is a considerable saving of precious time.
  • Some medical practitioners use tablets to track and share data with other teams when working on an emergency. Apart from doctors, even for say a common man, the technologies available in the market can make understanding the readings/ statistics undemanding. As a result, health management can become possible even at home, making the person take a step towards dealing with CVD a little sooner.
  • Since the data is very specific to a particular patient, it assists the healthcare practitioners to provide an accurate diagnosis. It then further implies receiving personalised treatments based on the individual health records.

Remote Health Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring or RPM includes communication gadgets as well as tools for measuring medications such as glucose monitoring, oxygen saturation measurements, etc. Deploying RPM ensures that patients can be closely watched for their health in the comfortable confines of their home. These tools check for all the vital parameters without bothering or being too obtrusive and thus, help in creating a stress-free environment. Ideally, RPM directly delivers actionable data to the medical practitioners who can then alter the treatment according to the reports they keep on receiving. Especially in the case of CVD, RPM has proved to be highly successful for patients suffering from congestive heart failure and those with implanted cardiac rhythm devices.

Personalised Medicines

Unlike cancer, genomics has not progressed much for CVD. However, the genome is an important factor when considering treatment for a patient suffering from CVD. Thanks to the digital means of gathering individual health information, doctors can now consider providing specific treatment depending on pathology, raw digital data sets from genomics, imaging, etc. Then there is also Artificial Intelligence or AI which, when combined with genomics, can greatly help in preventing and treating CVD. Since CVD can be connected to a person’s lifestyle, it is a huge boon to be able to decide on a personlised treatment plan based on genomics.

Digital health technology makes life simpler and more convenient. It can make the healthcare sector efficient and effective, reaching out to a vast number of people simultaneously. This sector is not just limited to doctors and patients but also includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and the medical devices manufacturing companies. But most importantly, it gives an individual the option to make informed choices. Especially for CVD, it is bound to play a major role in the area of prevention. It is for the best then that digital health technologies need to be more explored and exploited to ensure a healthy heart.

The Shifting Goalposts Of Popular Health Parameters And What Those Mean For Us

Here’s the irony we all seem to live with – while technology is giving us more and more opportunities to stay ahead of time, somewhere it is also making us too dependent on circumstances. The changing focus on health concerns rightly compliments this argument. While every person, irrespective of profession and gender, ideally needs to take care of health and stay fit, this is all the more true for working professionals who deal with long and stressful work hours. Consequently, diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid top the list of most common health concerns faced by the working class.

Change in Health Parameters

Earlier the parameter set to identify if a person was diabetic, for example, was if the fasting blood sugar level was above 140 (i.e. 140 milligrams of glucose per decilitre of blood). However, in 1997, the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus brought down the number to 126. This was probably more from a preventive point of view wherein; experts felt that sooner a condition was treated better the chances of a person from avoiding the dreaded health condition altogether. Unfortunately, this decision meant that all of a sudden almost 1.6 million people who were otherwise “healthy” (since their blood sugar level was in the previous good range of 126-140) suddenly were declared diabetic. The same goes for measuring cholesterol. While the cholesterol level earlier was considered a risk at 300, over the years as research progressed it came down to 240 and eventually has settled at 200, thus bringing in almost 42 million people in the category of high cholesterol patients.

The other health problem which is seen to greatly impact the population is thyroid. Thyroid, too, was always a concern but never with the same gravity that it demands now. Hypothyroidism affects about 4-5% of the people across the globe and in India, one in ten adults go through it. Statistics state that women are much more at a risk and need to take precautions from early on. Such numbers further promote research and force the medical fraternity to take the results even more seriously. However, the more focus the problems get, the more the number of people seem to “suffer” from it.

Change in the Treatment Outlook

As a result, the treatment patterns also have considerably undergone a change. Everyone now stresses on preventive measures vis-à-vis earlier times when a health problem was treated as and when it occurred. It could be because of the fact that since there is so less time to spare, people prefer taking extra cautions to stay healthy rather than later spend time making visits to a doctor. From the doctors’ perspective, they would prefer avoiding an unwarranted health scare by prescribing medicines to counter a possible situation than having to deal with it at a later stage. It also implies monetary profits for the healthcare business sector. That makes the increasingly lowered threshold levels slightly difficult to accept. But for the common man, the risk seems too great compared to money spent.

Resultant Situation

More importantly, what this situation has resulted in is an over-cautious generation. Lowered ideal health range levels may make people take cognisance of their eating habits, exercise routines, and so on. But they also forget the fact that excessively worrying about a certain health aspect will not take away the problem entirely; while cholesterol is the primary cause of a heart attack it can also occur due to unhealthy lifestyles, smoking, etc. Another example is of the BMI (Body Mass Index). In the beginning, BMI was essentially used as a measure for body weight, and, thus, to basically remain in the healthy bracket. It helped in predicting cardiovascular diseases or nutritional competencies. Now, as with other health parameters expanding their scope, so has this simple figure. Health specialists have lately arrived at a Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR) which when used along with the BMI apparently better predicts more serious disorders such as diabetes, lipid problems, atherosclerosis, and so on.

In some ways, this sounds greatly helpful. Yet, it is also important to remember that over-diagnosis can be problematic as well. Imagine the number of medicines one consumes these days. Somewhere it makes the body immune to certain strains of those medicines and hence when the real need arises, it is doubtful if that medicine will really have a positive effect. Many times, people even ignore the side effects of taking extra medications, just to ward off a future possible concern. The number of treatments available is endless as well. It is thus up to the educated us to decide whether we will allow ourselves to be supposedly called “unhealthy” and where to stop in this vicious circle.

 

Improve Your Heart Health with These Super Foods

Heart health is no longer a matter of concern for the elderly only. Even in their early twenties, men and women suffer from health ailments that can be fatal. According to a senior consultant cardiologist at a well-known hospital, India is currently witnessing around two million heart attacks a year with a majority of the victims being the youngsters. One person dies every 33 seconds because of a heart attack!

While some heart conditions that cannot be prevented, most concerns can be avoided. With these superfoods in your daily diet, curbing a heart attack will get easier.

Superfoods

Although superfoods have been around for a long time, the health benefits have come to light only recently. Superfoods are super rich in nutrients and antioxidants. They are beneficial for one’s health and can prevent terminal illnesses. Here are some of the superfoods you may love or hate, but can tremendously help in improving your heart health!

Walnuts

Walnuts top the nut list for heart-healthy superfoods. The distinct ‘brain’ shaped nut is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts contain higher quality antioxidants that fight free radicals responsible for heart diseases. Craving for a sugary snack? Snack on a handful of walnuts every day. The goodness they give you is more than your daily portion of fruits and vegetables, combined!

Salmon

Salmon is the star on the heart superfood list. This oily fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and super rich in proteins, Vitamins B and D. Regular consumption of Salmon lowers triglycerides by 50%. Triglycerides is the bad fat that increases the cholesterol in your body. This Omega-3 rich fish has proven to lower the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat). It also reduces the mortality rate of those with congestive heart conditions.

Oranges

An orange a day keeps your arteries healthy! This citrus fruit is high in flavonoids that help lower heart conditions caused by clots. Vitamin C present in oranges is linked with lower heart diseases. Oranges are rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber, and beta-carotene too. Several studies have shown that the chemicals present in oranges reduce blood cholesterol levels by 20-25%. Beware of the hidden sugars in the packaged orange juices, though.

Garlic

Garlic is a blood thinner. Garlic makes the blood consistency such that it easily passes through blood vessels. Garlic is high in bioflavonoids and contains sulfur which gives protection from calcium deposits and reduces the size of arterial plaque. It promotes adequate blood circulation. Regular consumption of garlic in your diet lowers the risk of blood stagnation and passage blockages by unhealthy fats.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has got a plenty of attention for being good for the heart and here is why. The cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. This is the perfect recipe for a healthy heart. Flavanol is the main flavonoid present in chocolate. It helps lower the blood pressure and improve the blood flow to the brain and heart. It also enables blood to clot by making the blood platelets less sticky.

Kale

Kale has risen to fame over the last couple of years. Kale is a nutrient-packed superfood. It has minerals, vitamins, and much more. It even has bile acid sequestrants which help lower the cholesterol levels. A study showed that consumption of kale juice for 12 weeks increased the level of ‘good’ cholesterol. Kale is also known to be one the world’s best sources of Vitamin K.

Oatmeal

Another superfood for your heart is the humble oatmeal. It is packed with omega 3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. It is rich in fiber which is good for the digestive tract. This superfood can lower the levels of bad cholesterol and keep your arteries clear. Oatmeal helps curb type 2 diabetes and helps in weight loss as well.

Avocados

Avocados are nutrient packed and good for your heart. They have good fats and are free from sodium and cholesterol. This superfood cuts down your saturated fat intake without compromising on calories. Just eating healthy fats is not enough. Ensure that you are exercising to burn off the calories consumed too!

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the secret to the healthy hearts of the Mediterranean folks. It prevents the formation of blood clots and excess blood coagulation. It raises the level of good cholesterol while lowering the bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body.

Acai Berries

Known as the miracle berry, this berry is full of antioxidants and vitamins. Acai berries are high in flavonoids that prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. They increase the capillary strength, prevent inflammation and lower cholesterol levels.

Of course, simply adding such superfoods in your diet won’t keep you disease-proof. You also need to follow a healthy routine, eat healthy food, and exercise regularly.

Did we miss a super food? Comment here and let us know.

Beat the Monday blues. Here’s how you could do it

image courtesy: thedoctorscloset.com
image courtesy: thedoctorscloset.com

Let’s face it: Monday hits all of us sometimes. While there are many gurus, motivators and thinkers who say that if we really love our work there should be no such thing as Monday blues, for regular walking-talking folks out there work is not always the biggest draw, day in and day out. After the weekend, especially if you have a life outside of the office (which is a great thing by the way), getting back to your desk on Mondays can be bit of a drag. Mondays come with its own pitfalls: demanding bosses, deadlines, goals (some of it too abstract to make sense), swipe-ins and swipe-outs, lunch hours etc…. basically a set of rules we program ourselves to follow, but are not really keen on. With a salary staring at us from the end of the tunnel, the whole problem is harder to deal with for some of us. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t have to fight Mondays as much as we generally have to? Here’s a quick guide to easing out the Mondays blues and welcoming the week with some semblance of joie de vivre:

If it is too bad, review what you are doing

First things first. If getting back to work on Monday pulls you down so badly that you cannot function without feeling depressed consistently, week after week, the problem is more serious than just Monday blues. It needs fixing. It is a sign that you are unhappy at work. Make a list of things that are not letting you function like yourself, and address them. If you are not yourself, you can’t function normally. This could, in really serious cases, could be a sign of depression. You need to find out what is bothering you and take proactive action to beat your blues. The usual Monday blues don’t hit you consistently. The sign of regular Monday blues is that you are aware of it. It should not cripple you. If it does, see a therapist. Continue reading Beat the Monday blues. Here’s how you could do it