World heart day is celebrated every year on the 29 of September to create awareness in people by reducing risk factors like physical inactivity, smoking, and poor diet, thereby 80 percent of premature mortalities from heart diseases and stroke could be gone away. Cardiovascular diseases and Stroke/Cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) are the world’s number one killers and claim 18.6 million lives annually that account for the half burden of diseases out of all Non-communicable Diseases.
Usually, there is a proverb that ‘it is the heart that connects a human being with others or even the rest of the world’. The subject of World Heart Day for this year is reminiscent of this saying. Following the official website of the World Heart Federation, the theme for this year’s said day is: ‘Use Heart to Connect’. The Heart Day theme of this year is very amazing and instigates me to write on this topic in the sense that by a kind heart, empathy, and pure intentions we can help human beings.
To understand the risk of Non-Communicable Diseases (Coronary heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer) a collection of risk factors have been recognized and are known as metabolic syndrome, primarily called syndrome-X that are equally significant for children and adults, includes:
- Hyperlipidemia such as TAG, low HDL and high LDL
- Decrease Insulin sensitivity or Insulin resistance
- Raised up highly sensitive C-reactive protein in the blood
- Central obesity or apple-shaped body
A person who has one or more metabolic disease risk factors is at greater risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Cardiac disease can be sudden, or chronic. MI or Myocardial infarction is a kind of acute cardiovascular disease. Chronic heart illness advances over time and causes damage to heart activity. If the heart can preserve blood flow, the disease is known as compensated heart disease. Subsequently, the heart muscles dilated, if it cannot maintain blood circulation, the disorder is classified as decompensated heart disease, and congestive heart failure occurs. Heart disease may affect the outer covering (pericardium), the heart muscle (myocardium), the inner lining (endocardium), heart vessels, and the valves.
Major cardiovascular disease events occur in developing countries as compared to the developed world; the reasons are living in stress, poor and unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise. As healthcare providers, we can participate in this mission to help people in how to avoid modifiable risk factors to prevent them from heart diseases. Before going for dietary guidelines firstly, we have to understand what is the difference between a healthy and unhealthy diet?
The one’s eating of foods having all necessary micronutrients and macronutrients required to cover his nutritional needs, maintaining health, well-being, and productivity is called a healthy diet. On the other hand definition of a poor and unhealthy diet is very vast, the lack of variety, balance, moderation in food choices, and consumption of less or excessive calories that do not meet one’s nutritional requirements for the activity of daily living and maintenance of health is called unhealthy diet. Furthermore the use of unusual cooking methods to prepare a meal, for example, frying foods, excessive use of fats and salt in making curry are also very noteworthy. Besides, the growing preferences of people to eat fast foods which contain a heavy amount of salt and trans fats are also adding insult to the injury.
Secondly, we have to be aware that physical inactivity is the root of all illnesses when an individual eats excessively but doesn’t do enough exercise to consume those extra calories, it does not matter the consumed food is healthy or unhealthy. Those extra calories act as a slow poison for him by gaining extra pounds, slowly leading him towards central obesity, insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia and thus towards Heart diseases type 2 Diabetes, and other Non-Communicable Diseases. On the contrary, regular physical activity helps to reduce weight and stress, maintain blood pressure and blood glucose level, increase good cholesterol (HDL), and reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
There are various dietary options to keep our heart healthy and to prevent disease
1- Prefer whole grains and cereals (wheat, oat, and barley, etc) because fiber content minerals and vitamins in whole grain and cereals help to make the diet more heart-healthy and nutritious by binding the fats from bile acids and intestine and thus reducing cholesterol levels.
2- Add more colors to your plate by a variety of vegetables and fruits (50 % of your meal) as those are a good source of antioxidants and fiber, help to fight against oxidative stress overweight, and high cholesterol level.
3-Use a major portion of plant-sourced proteins (pulses, seeds, nuts, etc.) that provide not only vegan protein but also is a good source of all necessary phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber that are nutritious as well as heart-healthy.
4- For animal-sourced protein, prefer to eat lean cuts of meat and poultry and fish. Fish is a source of omega-3 fatty acid: a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that helps in the reduction of inflammation and reduces LDL cholesterol.
5- Omit organ meat, red meat (beef, mutton) shellfish, egg yolk, and poultry with skin as it contains more cholesterol and saturated fatty acids that cause plaque formation and atherosclerosis.
6- Choose low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, etc.) to have a good lipid profile. Desserts containing whole milk, eggs, and cream are to be avoided.
7- Avoid sugars and fizzy drinks, choose unsweetened drinks and juices and prefer to drink plenty of plain water to maintain blood sugar level and weight
8- Modulate your cooking methods and try to eat boiled, grilled, and steamed foods.
9- Avoid fast foods, eat whole and fresh foods and try to cut down salt during cooking. Use less than 2400 mg per day if one is hypertensive to avoid its complications leading to heart and kidney diseases
10- Data relating to the fat content of the food and method of meal preparation that minimizes the fat is very important; the meal should be prepared without the addition of extra fat
11- Always use an ample quantity of onion, garlic ginger, cinnamon cumin in a cooking meal they help to fight inflammation, boost up the immunity and metabolic rate, and lower cholesterol levels hence, preventing the arteries from plaque formation and oxidative stress.
So it is the need of the hour we should work on the creation of awareness in masses and motivate them to follow the healthy lifestyle like a balanced diet, physical activity, quit smoking and manage stress.
Dr. Inam-ur-Raheem (Assistant Professor, NIFSAT, University of Agriculture Faisalabad)
Hina Rafiq (Nutritionist/Dietitian at DHQ Hospital, Okara)
Sofia Noor (OT Technologist DHQ Hospital, Okara)
Noshiza Majid (Lecturer at Minhaj University Lahore)