Indulge in enjoyment for the sake of your wellbeing

May 08, 2023 | 10:26
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Despite advances in treatment and access to sophisticated technology, the global burden of cardiovascular disease has been on a steady growth trend. Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year, according to the World Health Organization. It has also been the top cause of death in the US, for more than 50 years.

To understand why this growth in cardiovascular disease death continues, we can look at the contributing factors found in shifting lifestyle habits that have resulted in the rise of obesity rates, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes. Even more concerning is the increase of these conditions in younger populations.

Indulge in enjoyment for the sake of your wellbeing
Kent Bradley - Chief health and nutrition officer Herbalife

At the centre of our cardiovascular system is our heart, and its health is important for everyone, regardless of age. Luckily, no matter what stage of life you’re in, there are several ways to regain control over your lifestyle habits, to protect your heart health.

The first step in maintaining a healthy heart is to know where you stand. Making annual visits to your doctor for health assessments is a great place to start. While genetic factors can play a role in heart disease risks, environmental and other variables can be equally important factors.

It should be noted that high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, which is particularly concerning given that high blood pressure is a silent killer with no warning signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is imperative to regularly monitor your blood pressure. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Smoking has always been one of the most detrimental habits to one’s heart health. It can damage the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material, called atheroma, which narrows the artery. Some people may experience chest pain, known as angina, as a warning, but many people find out about the artery narrowing when they have a heart attack or stroke.

It seems obvious that smoking should be avoided for overall better health, but we are seeing an increase in less-obvious behaviours that can contribute to heart health issues that shouldn’t be ignored.

Sedentary lifestyles are increasing worldwide. In the US, for example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 per cent of people do not engage in the recommended amount of activity they need. A recent study examining these behaviours suggests that the increasing trend can be traced to a lack of available outdoor space for exercise, increased occupational sedentary behaviours such as office work, and the increased amount of time spent in front of the television, streaming services, and other video devices.

The benefits of exercise and regular physical activity extend well beyond weight loss and maintenance. Exercise contributes to overall bodily health as it helps our blood vessels relax and widen, allowing more efficient blood flow and nourishment to our hearts. This stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the body, which controls, regulates, and protects the cardiovascular system, resulting in a healthier heart.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity at a moderate level. To avoid sitting all day, try walking to a park during your lunch hour, try a walking meeting with your colleagues, park farther away from your office or the grocery store when running errands, take the stairs, or use a standing workstation at your desk.

As you age, engaging in daily functional exercise can also help reduce your risk. Functional exercise is a movement with the purpose of getting better at everyday activities – think walking, bending, squatting to pick something up, or pushing yourself off the floor.

Follow a dietary pattern of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains for your daily dose of vitamins and minerals to further boost your heart health. Fresh fruits and vegetables also provide important soluble and insoluble fibre. For healthy fats, foods like fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans are jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which may lessen the risk of heart disease.

Supplements can also help safeguard your heart health by supporting important nutritional gaps in your diet. A new study published by the American College of Cardiology shows that omega-3, folic acid, and CoQ10 are among the micronutrients you can take to reduce cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, the findings support the need for more personalised, precision-based dietary interventions that involve specific combinations of beneficial supplements.

While there are no clear direct links between high levels of stress and the incidence of heart disease, stress itself may pose a risk to the health of your heart, such as high blood pressure, overeating, or less exercise. Long-term stress can also lead to elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which increases risk of heart attack.

For the sake of your wellbeing, make it a point to take time out to relax and indulge in activities that you enjoy. At the end of the day, adopting a healthy and active lifestyle can go a long way in keeping heart disease at bay. If you haven’t already started, now is the time to incorporate one or more of these tips into daily living to keep your heart pumping strong now and in the decades to come.

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By Kent Bradley

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