Only by taking this one precaution, you are bound to live longer and healthier
Heart disease is number one cause of death even ahead of cancers. It is 10 times more prevalent as cause of death than diabetes and kidney diseases. This is true not only for Western developed world but also for the developing world. Hence those who are concerned about their health and worried about possible premature death must proactively work towards avoidance of heart disease. However, It is reassuring to lean from the medical literature that long healthy life is possible by inculcating wholesome and virtuous habits that promote good health and prevent heart diseases.
If you visit the website of World Health Organization, you see read following about Heart Diseases, which corroborates this belief:
- Cardio vascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
- An estimated 17.3 million people died from CVDs in 2008, representing 30% of all global deaths.
- Addressing risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity, raised blood pressure, diabetes and raised lipids can prevent most cardiovascular diseases.
Fate, destiny and our health: It is generally said about the health and longevity is part of our fate and destiny and it cannot be changed. I agree with this notion, but only partly. I think it is our own prerogative to positively affect our destiny to a substantial extent by following certain simple guidelines. Our ancestors have followed these for thousands of years. Prudence demands that we use our discretion wisely to follow a common-sensical approach to keep ourselves healthy. Most of these measures are simple and proven. Most physicians will advise these strongly. It is then your decision to use these for yourselves or not. Let us examine them now and hope that you would follow these.
Let us indulge in pragmatic philosophy of life. We all know that death is inevitable. Every living being has to die sometime. However, if every one takes care of his/ her health the cause of death will be not premature death due to heart disease and its complications. At a certain age with good health, passing away from this world will then be due to natural causes and aging.
There are two major factors that affect our health adversely. They are:
- LIFE STYLE: Our life style has changed drastically in the past 200 years. In short we have become sedentary in the name of modernity. We have many new inventions and innovations making our life very comfortable, but we also pay a price for such comforts if we do continuously remain alert that such comforts also hurt our health.
- DIET: I have posted several times on this blog about the food that we eat. I keep repeating what Hippocrates, the father of medicine said 2,500 years ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. After practicing medicine for over 40 years and observing so many people erroneously getting into wrong diet habits and trends, I am now convinced that “we are what we eat”. If we eat right, we stand very good chances of staying healthy and disease free; particularly heart disease free.
STAY ACTIVE: Our modern lifestyle makes us sedentary. Do you know there were no gyms only about 100 years ago? It was becausethey were not needed. Every one was active all day. Even today, you may not necessarily join a gym. Get up and do some exercise, even while working on desk. You do not
need to do much. If your work itself involves some strenuous activities, perhaps you do not need to do any. But if you are deskbound and inactive, at least walk for about 30 minutes a day, if not daily at least three or four times a week.
STAY WITHIN “NORMAL” WEIGHT LIMITS: Life insurance companies have near accurate charts indicating anyone’s weight at a given age and height. There is a definite correlation of heart diseases and overweight; obese and overweight persons are more likely to suffer from heart disease. Being overweight and obese are different points on the same path. With available information it is simple for you to conclude whether you are within the limits of desired weight? You can calculate your own Basic Metabolic Index (BMI). It is simply a mathematical formula of, Height in inches, divided by weight in pounds, or Height/ Weight = BMI.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the USA, BMI is interpreted as follows:
Normal weight = 18.5-24.9 BMI
Over weight = 25-29.9 BMI
Obese = 30 or greater BMI
Morbidly obese = 40 or higher BMI.
STAY AWAY FROM EATING FAST FOODS: Fast foods are full of fat and bad carbohydrates. Such foods are processed or refined. They process these foods to prevent them going rancid. During the refining process they remove almost all vitamins and minerals and the complicated carbohydrates are broken down into simple carbohydrates. These are called bad carbohydrates because their glycemic index is high. They turn into glucose quickly after ingestion. Such simple carbohydrates and glucose are called empty calories because it is a lot of calories without adequate nutrition. Their ingestion quickly stimulates secretion of insulin, which increases triglycerides and cholesterol levels, which are considered the precursor of the plaque formation in arteries. They also contain a lot of preservatives and chemicals, many of which are not fully understood for their effect on our health. People have proved that even after storing for a long time such fast foods do not go rancid because of processing and preservatives. These foods make you obese and bring on disease like metabolic syndrome, which consists of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Eat only good carbohydrates, which are unprocessed in the shape of whole grains, green leafy vegetables and lentils.
STAY ON PLANT BASED DIET: Many people are now coming to believe that being vegetarian and better still being vegan (who do not eat even poultry, milk, fish or eggs) carries a lot of benefits for our health. Animal proteins and fats and particularly red meat is now considered to be the potent cause of many diseases including heart diseases.
STAY AWAY FROM TRANS FATS AND SATURATED FATS: Fats are being blamed for the heart disease for a long time. And this has some scientific basis. Fats used in deep frying turns into trans fats and are the most harmful component of food forming plaques in arteries very readily. People on plant based diet seem to get enough fat from plants and they are mostly mono or poly-un-saturated fats and not saturated fats, as we find in animal fats. Some fat intake is necessary for normal functioning of body functions and plant fats are healthy with much lower heart disease rate.
GIVE UP JUICES, COLAS AND SUGAR: These drinks and added sugars in the foods seem to be the culprit. You may be surprised to learn that the milk and yogurt from super markets also have some added sugar. Sugar has become our addiction in the shape of deserts, cakes, brownies, ice cream etc. Sugar consumption has increased by 20 times in the past century. These are all empty calories that need to be avoided. We must also understand that every cell of the body needs and uses glucose as energy and this can be had from any low glycemic index or “good” carbohydrates. No sugar should be added to food and the sweet tooth that we all have developed in past few generation needs to be reversed. In the past 40 years fructose has replaced our normal table sugar or sucrose because it is cheaper and sweeter. But now it is becoming evident that fructose, which is available in nature in fruits and honey only is the cause of many problems. This is yet another reason to avoid all forms of sweet drinks and added sugar.
STAY AWAY FROM SMOKING: It is now a proven fact that smoking is definitely one of the causes of heart disease, aside from its other adverse effects on lungs. Even other smoker’s smoke, called secondary smoke, which contains many unknown chemicals, is harmful. To stop smoking you may even need to end friendship with your smoker friends.
STAY AWAY FROM ALCOHOL: Some people believe that a small amount of red vine is good for heart. This is not proved. But it is generally agreed that more than two drinks a day is surely not good for health and leads to problems of liver and other diseases.
I would like to mention here that one of presentation of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is captioned “How to make yourselves heart attack proof”. He was Chairman of surgical unit at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Esselstyn and his wife, Ann have written a book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”. They propose you should never have heart attack if you become a vegan – Author Dr. BC