29 Aug 2013

Be kind to your heart

The holy book says, “Guard your heart jealously, because out of it comes the good things of life.”

Medical experts agree with this golden advice. They say these words of wisdom apply literally and figuratively to how we should protect our heart from danger in our day-to-day activities.

They note that protecting your heart goes beyond avoiding heartbreak or running away from sin and Satan; and stress that a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate way to reduce one’s chances of developing heart-related diseases.

 A cardiologist (heart specialist) with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Dr. Jane Ajuluchukwu, says what an individual does daily would determine whether he/she would develop health complications like diabetes, stroke or kidney failure in future.

She notes that protecting your heart involves reducing your risks for cardiovascular diseases that could kill you before your time.

Doctors on WebMD.com say if you want to enjoy your pension allowances or be present at the ceremony to mark your 50th birthday and not die suddenly of a heart attack, cardiac arrest or cardiovascular diseases, some habits must go. They include the following:


A cardiologist and medical director of the New York University Women’s Heart Programme, Nieca Goldberg, says a major cause of heart disease is smoking.

Goldberg says smoking raises blood pressure, causes blood clots, and makes it harder to exercise.

Again, the American Heart Association warns that smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the world.

Experts warn that even though it may be one of the most difficult habits to quit, the rewards of stopping smoking are perhaps the greatest and most immediate.

“When you toss the smokes, your heart disease risk goes down within just a few days of quitting. Within a year, your risk is cut by half. After 10 years of living smoke-free, it’s as if you never smoked at all,” the scientists assure.

Ignoring that chest pain

Goldberg, who, in her book entitled, Complete Guide to Women’s Health, warns that when your heart literally aches and you don’t know why, it’s time to get it checked out.

“If you have chest pains while working, walking, or exercising, that’s a red flag. But if it happens after a heavy meal, it’s more likely to be your stomach causing trouble.

“If you feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest and you start sweating, it is an urgent matter; go to a doctor or, better still, rush to the hospital. It is a sign of heart attack.

“Heart pain can feel more like a pressure rather than actual pain. People tend to feel it in the front of their chest, with the sensation sometimes extending into the shoulders, up into the jaw, or down the left arm,” Goldberg warns.

Eating with abandon

Ajuluchukwu notes that being obese or being overweight contributes to heart disease, heart failure, and a shorter lifespan. She says careless eating, especially in the 21st century where junk foods are readily available, may be injurious to your heart.

She adds, “Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts; low in saturated fat and cholesterol; and with almost no trans fats. This does not mean you need to avoid fat altogether. Fats found in fish, olives and olive oil, nuts and avocados are heart-healthy and should be eaten in moderation.”

Avoiding the hospital

If the sight of injections or drugs is what is keeping you from the hospital, you may want to have a rethink.

Goldberg says when you don’t get checked out regularly by a doctor, you might not realise if you have some of the silent heart risk factors that are hard to detect.

“Some of the most common, symptom-free cardiovascular issues are also some of the most easily treated, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“If the cost of a yearly medical check-up is holding you back, look for where they are doing free screening or tests in your community or local government. In fact, you can save a portion of your earnings for it,” She counsels.

Being a couch potato

Goldberg in her book notes that lack of physical exercise increases an individual’s risk for heart diseases.

Goldberg says, “Physical activity simply translates into living longer. Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, encourages weight loss, benefits blood vessel function, and cuts stress, among other things.

“Even if you haven’t been active for the last 20 years, it’s never too late to make an impact with exercise. Just be sure to talk to a doctor before you start a new fitness regimen. Tell your doctor exactly what you plan to do, or ask his or her advice, if you’re looking for suggestions.”

Neglecting your expanding waistline

If your belt size is slowly getting bigger, that’s something to worry about, physicians warn.

They say that excess fat tissue in the midsection (giving you an apple-shape figure) could mean you are already developing metabolic syndrome — a group of health problems that can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, through the hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

“A hefty waistline is linked to doubling your risk of heart disease,” Goldberg says. That’s good reason to redouble your efforts to get in shape through a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just about your clothes size.

Letting your blood pressure run amok

“A good way to wreck your heart is to leave your blood pressure elevated and untreated,” Goldberg notes.

She says allowing blood pressure to get out of hand makes the heart work harder and to enlarge, leading to heart failure; while it can also cause hardened arteries, thus raising your risks for heart attack, stroke, and other problems.

Physicians say even though symptoms of high blood pressure are rare, it’s relatively easy to diagnose. You can even check it yourself with a home blood pressure monitor. Diet, exercise, and medications (if needed) can also be used to treat high blood pressure. So, make the decision to live right.

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