Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are on the rise in India. The NFHS-5 report states high prevalence of hypertension (21% in women vs. 24% in men), diabetes (14%women and 16%men) and even overweight/obesity (24% in women and 23% in men). All these act as risk factors of cardio vascular diseases.
Heart attacks are no longer an ageing disease. As per the Indian Heart Association (IHA), 25% of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under the age of 40. According to the IHA, heart disease is the number one cause of mortality and a silent epidemic among Indians, claiming nearly three million lives every year. It is very important to learn about the risk factors (modifiable and non-modifiable) that predisposes one to heart diseases.
Non-modifiable risk factors
Genetic predisposition: We Indians have a higher predisposition to heart disease and develop the ailment about 10 years before our global counterparts.
Family history: Having a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, increases the risk of CVDs.
Modifiable risk factors
Sedentary Lifestyle: As per the WHO, 75% adolescents and nearly 40% adults do not do enough physical activity everyday. Spending long hours sitting at desks, watching screens, and not engaging in regular physical activity, are all linked to obesity and heart diseases.
Unhealthy eating habits: High consumption of processed foods and sugary beverages lead to obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. We Indians consume high amount of trans fats (from processed foods) which causes an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol), all of which can lead to atherosclerosis.
Smoking and alcohol consumption: Smoking leads to constriction of blood vessels through the build-up of plaque in the arteries and even causes our blood to thicken, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis.
Stress: Chronic stress can increase inflammation and raise blood pressure and lower HDL cholesterol.
Lack of awareness: Being unaware about the signs of heart disease, access to optimal care and the reluctance or delay in seeking adequate medical attention can lead to late diagnosis and be fatal.
Fortunately, we can lower these risks. According to the WHO, 80% of heart disease, are preventable with three lifestyle changes: eating healthy food, increasing physical activity and avoiding tobacco.
Try to imbibe/follow these lifestyle changes to lower the risk of heart diseases:
Maintain a healthy diet:
Focus on a balanced diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and veggies and healthy fats.
Include healthy fats like nuts, fish, olive oil, avocado, mustard oil, ground nut oil, seeds which are good sources of Mono and Poly unsaturated fatty acids having anti-inflammatory properties to improve heart health.
Protect your body with a good intake of antioxidants. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, can help protect against oxidative stress, a process linked to cardiovascular disease.
Choose foods high in fiber like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts which will aid in digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, support a healthy gut microbiome and help lower cholesterol.
Limit intake of saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. All these are associated with an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Quit Smoking and limit alcohol intake:
Seek support from friends, family, or smoking cessation programs to help you quit and limit intake of alcohol to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Manage Stress and Get Good Sleep:
Meditation, yoga, pranayama help reduce stress along with good quality sleep. Poor sleeping habits in the long run increase the risk of obesity, hypertension and heart diseases.
Regular Health Check-ups:
Monitor and manage conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes with regular check-ups and appropriate medications if prescribed.
The author is the Nutrition Consultant at MyThali, Arogya World.
Engage in regular physical activity, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise be it walking, running, cycling, yoga, dancing, swimming etc. These help in lowering cholesterol, maintain healthy body weight and reduce stress.