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5 Habits You Can Start Today For A Healthier Heart

We know our health is the most important part of our lives but we often don’t realize how small, everyday things can affect it. While you might have a short-term fitness goal, leading a healthy lifestyle requires long-term goals which you work towards every day. 

Your heart is one of the most vital organs that keeps blood flowing to other parts of your body to keep them working well. It is important to take care of your heart, to reduce your risk of diseases in the long term. Heart health needs more focus as cardiovascular diseases are one of the biggest health concerns worldwide, according to the WHO. Many of your everyday activities can impact your heart health, but you can make the choice to start changing what you do to reduce your risks. Here are five heart-healthy habits that you can start from today:

1. Increase fruits & veggies in your diet 

How much fruits and vegetables do you eat in a day? If you have a sedentary lifestyle and you have less than 300g of vegetables and 100g of fruits daily, you’re eating less than the intake recommended by the National Institute of Nutrition guidelines. Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in micronutrients – minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron and vitamins like vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin A. You should also be aware that there isn’t any one type of fruit or vegetable that you should eat, the key is to consume a variety of fresh, colourful produce — red tomatoes, leafy greens, yellow or orange citrus fruits — all of which are rich in different types of nutrients. Fruits can also be a great replacement for desserts and help you avoid sugar.

Multiple studies have shown that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases. One study observed that simply eating one fruit a day can reduce your risk by as much as 10%.

2. Include exercise in your daily routine

Globally, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men don’t do enough physical activity to stay healthy, according to the 2020 fact sheet by the WHO. Physical inactivity has long been associated with an increased risk of heart diseases, so the more exercise you get, the lesser chances you’ll have of developing heart issues.

Based on the latest WHO guidelines, the minimum amount of weekly physical activity for adults between 18-64 is 2.5–5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, 1.25–2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a mix of both. Exercise that focuses on strengthening major muscle groups should also be done 2 or more days of the week. Making the time to exercise just for just half an hour every day is one of the best heart-healthy habits you can practice.

3. Start meditating 

High stress for long periods of time can begin to physically affect your body, even without being noticeable. It can also increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases and heart attack. While there are many stress management techniques you can try out, meditation is one of the easiest ones that you can practice and start from today.

Meditation, besides being a great way to let go of stress, has been proven to have many health benefits including lowering your cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate — all of which are amazing for your heart health. You can make meditation a part of your daily routine of heart-healthy habits by setting aside a few minutes in the morning, evening, or both.

4. Reduce sodium in your diet

You might know that doctors recommend having less salt if someone has high blood pressure. But are you aware that salt is just one of the many ways you might be consuming sodium? Sodium is also found in a variety of foods such as milk, eggs, and meat. It is particularly found in high quantities in processed foods like bread, biscuits, and chips and ingredients like soy sauce or stock cubes.

High sodium intake is not just linked with hypertension. Studies show that reducing your sodium intake can not only reduce your blood pressure but also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and coronary heart diseases. Your ideal consumption of sodium should be less than 2g per day (5g per day of salt), as per the WHO.

5. Get 7 hours of sleep   

If you sleep for less than seven hours a day, you might be sleep-deprived. The lack of sleep, besides putting you in a bad mood for the next morning, can lead to an increased risk of heart diseases. Adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep, with older adults needing between 7-8 hours. However, in India, the percentage of sleep-deprived adults is high and it is estimated that around 33% might be suffering from insomnia, a disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.

So, in case you’re not getting enough sleep, try sleeping early so you can get the proper hours of rest and look after your heart health.

These are just some of the simple heart-healthy habits that you can start including in your daily routine from today. This can help you make a difference in your life and you might even start seeing some benefits immediately in addition to preventing heart diseases in the long run. Apart from following these heart-healthy habits, also consider making changes that help you in the long run like switching to a heart-healthy diet and preparing your meals using cooking oil good for your heart.

References:

https://www.nin.res.in/downloads/DietaryGuidelinesforNINwebsite.pdf 
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12081821/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18459474/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12773206/
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.0000048890.59383.8D
https://www.excli.de/vol16/Sahebkar_Panahi_21072017_proof.pdf
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)31714-7/fulltext
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7763082/
https://www.who.int/elena/titles/sodium_cvd_adults/en/
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0004589
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353813/

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HDL vs LDL: The Difference Between Good & Bad Cholesterol

You may have heard about cholesterol being related to your diet or how high cholesterol isn’t good for your body. Cholesterol is actually closely related to heart health and according to the WHO, a third of heart diseases are caused by high cholesterol. The good news is that cholesterol is a controllable risk factor, which means that being aware of what it is and following the steps to manage it can help lower your risk of diseases.

What is Cholesterol? 

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance in your body that is used to make hormones like vitamin D. Cholesterol either comes from our diet or is synthesized by our body

While your body needs cholesterol for essential functions, if you have it in larger quantities, it can be unhealthy. This cholesterol can combine with other substances in your blood to form thick deposits known as plaque that stick to the inner walls of the arteries. Plaque narrows your arteries, reducing the blood flow and making it bad for your heart health. It can even lead to blockages, causing coronary artery disease. 

What are the Types of Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is carried through the body by particles called lipoproteins. These are a combination of fat (also known as lipid) and protein. These are of different types:

HDL 

HDL, high-density lipoprotein, is referred to as the ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL is responsible for carrying cholesterol from other body parts to the liver where it can be then removed. Having a high level of HDL can protect you against heart attack and stroke.

LDL

LDL is low-density lipoprotein, which is also referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. When you have high cholesterol, this is the type of cholesterol that puts you at risk as a high level of LDL causes the build-up of plaque in your arteries. 

What Causes High Cholesterol? 

Having high cholesterol is linked to high LDL but unhealthy levels of cholesterol with low HDL also puts you at risk. According to the Indian Heart Association, cholesterol problems are common in South Asian ethnic groups including Indians. This is not just because of lifestyle factors but also genetic predisposition to lower levels of HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol. However, unhealthy cholesterol levels also has other causes, which include the following factors – 

  1. Unhealthy diet: If you have a poor diet that includes eating too much saturated or trans fats (found in processed and junk found), you are likely to have unhealthy levels of cholesterol too. 
  2. Obesity: High cholesterol is also common in those who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Body mass index is calculated using height and weight with the formula BMI = kg/m2, where kg is the weight in kilograms and m2 is the square of the height in metres. A BMI of 30 or above indicates obesity. 
  3. Low physical activity: Regular exercise can boost the levels of HDL, the good cholesterol in your body. A lack of exercise may be related to low levels of HDL and high LDL. 
  4. Smoking:  Smoking cigarettes, apart from causing other health issues, can also lower the HDL levels in your body. 
  5. Alcohol: Your total cholesterol level can increase if you drink too much alcohol, leading to unhealthy cholesterol levels. 

What is the Right Level of Cholesterol? 

Maintaining the right level of cholesterol is important for reducing the risk of heart diseases and reducing the risk of complications if you have been diagnosed. Cholesterol levels are measured through a lipid test which is recommended once every 5 years for adults below the age of 45 years. For men of ages 45-65 and women 55-65, it is recommended to have this test every 1-2 years. Depending on your other health factors or family medical history, your doctor might suggest having this test more or less frequently. 

According to the Indian Medical Association:

  • Your LDL should be under 80 mg/dl
  • Your HDL should be over 50 mg/dl
  • Your total cholesterol should not be above 180 mg/dl

If you have high cholesterol, it can affect your heart health. It is possible to lower cholesterol through heart-healthy habits including exercise and having a better diet that is low in saturated and trans-fat and high in unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are the good fats that your body needs which you can get from switching to a heart-healthy oil such as Saffola blended oils. 

References:

https://www.who.int/data/gho/indicator-metadata-registry/imr-details/3236

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-cholesterol

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol

https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterol.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305896/

http://www.ima-mumbai.com/check_your_bad_cholestrol.html

http://indianheartassociation.org/cholesterol-and-south-asians/

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html#Interpreted

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/symptoms-causes/syc-20350800

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Why You Should Have Fats in Your Diet

The nutritional role of fats in a healthy diet has often been misunderstood, leading to some unfortunate myths linking them to weight gain. Fats are in fact one of the three key macronutrient groups along with carbohydrates and proteins. These macronutrients are all a part of a balanced diet that is needed for growth, metabolism, and the proper functioning of your body. However, not all fats are good for your health. Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) can have negative health effects, especially if taken in high quantities. On the other hand, good fats are essential and keep you and your heart healthy. This is where monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) come in. 

What are Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)

Monounsaturated fatty acids are one of the healthy types of fats. These fats are fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond within them. Healthy oils with MUFAs can be found in a liquid form at room temperature and harden at colder temperatures.  

What are Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) 

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the other type of healthy fats. As the name suggests, these have more than one unsaturated carbon bond within the fat molecule. PUFAs are found in a variety of foods ranging from oils to nuts. 

Benefits of MUFAs and PUFAs 

The National institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad suggests that it is important to obtain the right balance of all three fatty acids in our diet. Excessive consumption of SFA has been linked with an increased risk of heart diseases and diabetes in a report by UN. MUFAs and PUFAs on the other hand have significant health benefits like:

  • Increasing in HDL cholesterol, which is good cholesterol that removes other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream
  • Reducing LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol that can get stuck in your blood vessels and making them narrow, increasing your chances of a stroke or heart attack  
  • Can help reduce risk of coronary heart diseases 
  • Improving insulin sensitivity, which helps your body manage blood sugar and metabolism better  
  • Can help reducing risk of diabetes 

Best Sources for MUFAs and PUFAs

Monounsaturated fatty acids can be found in vegetable oils such as olive oil, and canola oil. Polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found in nuts, fish, fish oils, and vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil, sunflower, safflower and soybean oil. An easy way to get the right balance of MUFA and PUFA in your diet is through blended oil. Blended oils such as Saffola Gold contain a mix of oils rich in MUFAs and PUFAs so you can get the health benefits of both with a single cooking oil. Choosing the right cooking oil is one of the most important parts of a heart-healthy diet as they’re a part of almost all the meals that you make at home. Making the switch to a healthier cooking oil can have a significant positive impact on your health and the health of your household, without much effort. 

In conclusion, don’t be wary of all types of fat. You should just be on the lookout for the bad fats which can increase your risk of heart diseases. Make good fats a part of your diet and start experiencing the health benefits today! 

References:
https://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/docs/macronutrients.pdf
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000785.htm
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000747.htm
http://www.fao.org/3/i1953e/i1953e.pdf
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/hdl-cholesterol/art-20046388

 

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The Beginner’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Diet

Keeping your heart healthy is important to your overall health. Your heart is one of the most important parts of your body. It works throughout the day and night to pump blood that’s essential to keep everything else functioning smoothly. But you shouldn’t take your heart’s health for granted as other unhealthy lifestyle choices can start to have an impact on your heart too. It’s never too late to start caring about your heart health and when you do, one of the best ways to look after your heart is with diet. 

Your diet has a big role to play in how well the heart functions so as soon as you start eating healthier, your heart’s health is going to improve too. While there are some foods that are better for your heart than others, if you’re trying to keep your heart healthy and prevent cardiovascular diseases in the long run, there’s more to do. A heart-healthy diet doesn’t just mean adding heart-healthy foods to your meals, you also have to take a holistic look at your eating habits. 

Limit your sodium intake 

Studies have shown that reducing your sodium intake is great for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels as well as reducing high blood pressure. Adults with high blood pressure are recommended to have no more than 2000 mg of sodium per day and reducing it can help lower your blood pressure. Since sodium mostly comes from salt added to your food, it’s possible to easily reduce how much you consume. If you still find yourself tempted to add the extra pinches of salt, consider switching to a low-sodium salt. 

Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains 

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are packed with nutrients that are good for your body. You can replace many high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables. For example, if you find yourself craving a snack, instead of grabbing some chips, have some fresh cucumbers instead. Whole grains such as oatmeal, barley, corn, whole wheat, rice, millet, quinoa, and sorghum are easily digested by your body. 

Add more potassium, calcium, and magnesium to your diet 

Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are key minerals which play a critical role in regulating & maintain blood pressure. They help blood vessels tighten and relax when they need too, thus maintaining normal blood pressure throughout the body.

Include low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, banana and nuts as a part of your diet as they’re rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. 

Eat less sugar 

It’s possible that sugar is already a part of your daily diet – from a few spoons with tea or coffee in the morning to desserts consumed after a meal or some biscuits in the evening. Sugar is also present in high amounts in many processed foods, even savoury ones. Ingredients like glucose, fructose, galactose, or dextrose all add up to your total sugar consumption. A high intake of sugar has been linked to an increase in cardiovascular diseases so try to reduce the amount of sugar you consume. Prefer eating at home, reduce sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages in your diet. 

Cut out saturated and trans fat 

High consumption of trans fatty acids and saturated fats have been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart diseases. Saturated and trans fats are commonly found in fast food and processed foods – what is commonly referred to as junk food. Clinical trials have found that replacing trans fatty acids with monounsaturated (MUFA) or polyunsaturated fatty acids(PUFA) can help reduce your cholesterol levels. 

Use the right cooking oils for a healthy Diet 

Using the right cooking oil is an important part of a healthy diet. Vegetable oils such as palm and coconut oil are high in saturated fat, whereas oils like olive, peanut, canola contain less saturated fat and more monosaturated fats, and oils like sunflower, corn, soybean, safflower are rich in polyunsaturated fats. Monosaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are better for your health and are known as good fats.  One of the easiest ways of maintaining a balance of both these fats in your diet is with blended oils. Blended oils such as Saffola Gold have a mix of oils rich in MUFAs and PUFAs so you can get the benefit of two types of oil with one.  

Count your calories 

Lastly, eating a heart-healthy diet also includes eating the right amount of calories. The ideal amount of calories you should be consuming varies depending on your gender, age, and level of activity. The rule of thumb is to balance the number of calories you eat with the calories that you burn. You should consume a lesser amount than you burn if you want to lose weight or an equal amount to maintain your weight. Check the calorie count of any packaged foods you eat and for dishes cooked at home, you can look up the approximate amount of calories they contain. Tracking your calories can help you get a better idea of whether you need to modify the foods you’re eating and their portions.

These are just a few simple suggestions for eating healthier and you can start making changes from today. Eating a heart-healthy diet is can be an important preventive measure against cardiovascular diseases and it can also show benefits such as lowering your blood pressure So, even if you’re not at risk for heart diseases, you can be confident that adopting a heart-healthy diet will help you get healthy and stay healthy.

References: 

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17268422/

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.0000019552.77778.04

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.043052