The heart is such an important organ. It sustains our life and if it is not healthy, our chance at a healthy life is actually limited. So, we should all take steps to keep it as healthy as possible.
But first, it is important to actually know where you lie in terms of heart health.
Do you actually know how healthy your heart is?
Many times because we don’t feel unwell, we don’t bother to check ourselves. But when it comes to the heart, it is one organ where regular checks can really help.
So here is a list of tests related to heart health that I encourage you to get within this month of February
If you are generally well these are the recommended tests
- Body Mass Index (To assess your weight)
- A body fat percentage test – To find out what percentage of your body is fat
- Visceral fat test – Assessing fat around the organs
- Waist to hip ratio
- Blood pressure test
- Blood sugar test
- A fasting lipid profile (What most of us call a cholesterol test)
If you are overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes, if you smoke, drink alcohol or have any cardiovascular symptoms, I strongly recommend you do these additional tests
- C reactive protein - A test that looks at inflammation in the body.
- Fasting insulin - A test that measures the hormone that controls blood sugar.
- Vitamin D level – A very important vitamin which is vital for optimal cardiac health function.
- A heart ECG scan - This can show you if your heart is enlarging and functioning well
Next, I would like to share a few tips that are particularly good for the heart
1. Drinking water. Our blood is mostly water. And water will help to reduce swelling of the legs and unnecessary rise in blood pressure. Aim to drink at least 2 litres a day. Remember that the best estimate of the amount of water you need in litres is to divide your weight in kg by 30.
2. Keep your weight in a healthy range. Most people have about a 20kg range that is healthy. To calculate your maximum healthy weight target multiply your height in meters by 25 and then by your height in meters again. The formula is H x 25 x H. For someone who is 1.73 meters like me, my maximum healthy weight is 1.73 x 25 x1.73 = 74kg.
3. Avoid sitting a lot and get more active. Sitting is definitely the new smoking. Research shows that those who sit for the longest have an associated 147 per cent increase in cardiovascular events and increases significantly your risk for a deep vein clot especially when travelling.
How active are you? Do you sit a lot? Here are a few tips
- Avoid sitting for more than 1 hour at a time. Take regular breaks to get up and walk about.
- Find ways to be deliberate about the activity. Take the stairs, walk part of your journey to and from work and do activities like washing your car.
- Make a commitment to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise on most days. If this seems difficult, break it down into 10 minute periods. Even if you are busy you should be able to spare a few minutes in the morning and in the evening
4. Eat for your heart.
a. Eat foods high in omega 3 fats and avoid foods high in omega 6 and trans fats
b. Avoid sugar and sugar-rich foods like soda and packed juices. When fat is combined with refined sugar, the effect is much worse. Avoid therefore things like ice cream, bread with margarine and foods like crisps and chips made with oil.
- i. Omega 3 rich foods to eat more include avocado, chia seeds, flax seeds, fish and nuts. These fats help reduce clots, improve heart health and even help with weight loss.
- ii. Omega 6 rich foods to avoid are mainly refined oils such as sunflower, sunseed, peanut, soybean and canola oils
- iii. Trans fats to avoid completely include Margarine and vegetable shortening. Learn to read labels and avoid any food that has transfats also known as hydrogenated fats
5. Laugh often. Laughing helps to reduce stress, relax your blood vessels and reduces the risk for clots
6. Take deep breaths. Aim to take 15 deep breaths twice daily. Take deep breaths in for about 3 to 5 seconds and deep breaths out for about 3 to 5 seconds. This will only take you 5 to 6 minutes a day
7. Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke even if you don’t smoke. Be deliberate and firm about avoiding environments where there are people smoking especially for children.
Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 30 per cent higher for people exposed to second-hand smoke at home, at work or more regularly.
8. Get enough rest. Most people who get heart attacks and strokes get less than 6 hours of sleep each day. Aim to get a minimum of 6 hours of sleep each day but preferably 7 to 8 hours. And try to go to bed early.
9. Practice Gratitude. Saying thank you and meaning it is very good for heart health. The feeling of gratitude stimulates the production of feel-good hormones, stress relievers and even immune boosters. Take a moment before you sleep to feel the gratitude for 20 to 30 things
10. Have a glass of wine or grape juice. Wine in moderation has been shown to have cardioprotective effects. No more than 1 glass of wine a day and no more than 5 glasses a week shouldn’t cause much harm. However, avoid drinking every day.
Remember, your heart never rests. It never stops beating. It requires to be taken care of for you to have a long and healthy life.
I look forward to sharing more information with you. If you have found this article useful, please share it with friends and family and encourage them to sign up
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Wishing you health, peace and happiness
Dr Paul Kasenene