World Heart Day is much more than a simple date placed on our calendars by a leading health institution: it is the largest awareness and communication campaign for heart health in the world. Today, September 29, Pic is happy to be part of it.
PUT YOUR HEART IN IT
World Heart Day was first held in 2000 by the World Heart Federation, and has returned on September 29 every year since. Its goal is to bring information and awareness to individuals, families, communities and political representatives, urging everyone to promote initiatives and activities in support of healthy lifestyle choices that curtail the main risk factors behind cardiovascular disease.
Over the years, a community of more than 200 national institutions has organized a wide variety of events in support of the commitment made by the medical profession and heart foundations in over 100 countries. On September 29, the whole world bustles with free check-up points, sports events, marathons, bike rides, scientific panels, concerts, shows, performances and much more. The slogan for the 2019 World Heart Day, Make a Heart Promise, highlights the importance of our active role against heart disease – for our loved ones, our families and ourselves. Almost 18 million people under 60 die from cardiovascular disease every year, and some reports say this statistic could jump up to 23 million by 2030. That’s why it is crucial for all of us to act now, starting from the most important form of precaution available: information.
RISK FACTORS ARE NOT ALL THE SAME
Cardiovascular disease has a polarizing effect: people often react by being either a “fatalist” or a “health nut” about it, meaning they believe either that there is nothing they can do about risk factors or that they can completely control them.
In fact, scientific and medical evidence shows there are two kinds of risk factors: the ones we can change (by making lifestyle choices or by taking medication) and the ones we cannot.
The non-modifiable risk factors are:
- Age: as we grow older, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease physiologically increases.
- Gender: men are more at risk than women, although menopause increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Family history: having relatives who were diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease at a younger age (before 55 in men or 65 in women) increases the risk of developing similar conditions.
The modifiable risk factors are:
- Smoking: nicotine increases heart rate, while carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood. The combination of these two effects leads to arteriosclerosis – a sworn enemy of heart health.
- Blood pressure: high blood pressure strains the heart over time.
- Total cholesterol level: the more cholesterol there is in your blood, the higher the chances plaques can build up in the blood vessels.
- HDL: high-density lipoproteins take excess cholesterol from our body’s tissues to the liver, where it can be disposed of. Also known as “good cholesterol”, HDL is the bloodstream’s scavenger – so too little of it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Diabetes: if not kept in check, the condition can lead to arteriosclerosis.
TIPS TO CONTROL MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS.
- MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
5 portions a day of in-season fruit and vegetables contrast free radicals and provide vitamins E, C and beta carotene – which are essential for good heart function.
- LESS SALT
WHO guidelines recommend that adults consume less than 5 grams of salt per day. The current average consumption is 10-12 grams: we could decrease our chances of cardiovascular disease by 17% (as well as our risk of stroke by 23%) just by halving our salt intake.
- PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
A minimum of 40 minutes of moderate exercise, 3 times a week, favors weight loss, increases HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels and reduces triglycerides and blood sugar. Try power walking, biking, skiing or swimming.
- KEEP BLOOD PRESSURE UNDER CONTROL
Blood pressure should be checked regularly after the age of 40. Exact parameters will vary from person to person, but generally speaking a healthy adult should remain under 120 over 90.
- NO SMOKING
Smokers have 5 times the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to non-smokers. Plus, smoking is a factor leading to high blood pressure. Even secondhand smoke can cause up to 30% of the damage associated with smoking.
- WATCH YOUR CHOLESTEROL
Avoid foods that are rich in animal fats (butter, cheese, lard, fatty meat) and palm oil, and instead favor foods high in Omega 3, 6 and 9 (oily fish and extra virgin olive oil, as well as sunflower seed, flax and hemp oil).
- WEIGHT AND WAISTLINE
Excess abdominal fat has been linked to metabolic disease such as dyslipidemia and diabetes; weight gain in general can also lead to higher blood pressure.
- SAY YES TO NUTS
Almonds, walnuts and pistachios decrease the secretion of insulin, the hormone responsible for bad-for-your-heart sodium retention. A handful of nuts is a great snack option to keep hunger at bay while reducing the risk of metabolic disease thanks to fibers and Omega 3.
- CUT DOWN PROCESSED FOOD AND ALCOHOL
Eat less white flour, sugar and hydrogenated fats, and more whole grains – which are full of fiber, less processed and lower in sugar. Alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation (1-2 glasses of wine a day).