Five questions, dil se

Five questions, dil se
Highlights

There are many risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Some such as family history and age cannot be changed.  But other risk factors can be changed or managed through early diagnosis and treatment include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, unhealthy diets, and abuse of alcohol.

What factors lead to cardiovascular disease?
There are many risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Some such as family history and age cannot be changed. But other risk factors can be changed or managed through early diagnosis and treatment include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, unhealthy diets, and abuse of alcohol.

What should an ideal diet contain so as to lessen risk of cardiovascular disease?
The role of diet is crucial in the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease. While specific diet should be drawn up for anindividual by a dietician based on his or her age and lifestyle, food low in saturated fats, fresh fruit and vegetables form the core of a healthy diet plan.

Saturated fats in animal products and trans-fats found in found in processed food like shop-bought cakes, biscuits, lead to increase in the cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis. Vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds are rich in unsaturated fats that are beneficial for the heart. However, the total fat intake should not exceed 37% of total calorie intake even in it is unsaturated.

How is smoking linked to heart disease?
Nicotine in cigarettes accelerates the heart rate and raises blood pressure. Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, increases fatty deposits in the arteries, predisposes the blood to clot, adversely affects fat levels in the blood, and promotes coronary artery spasm.

How does high BP lead to heart disease?
Hypertension or high blood pressure can lead to coronary artery disease, heart failure or thickening of the heart muscle known as cardiac hypertrophy. When blood flows through the arteries, it presses against the walls of the blood vessels. This force is measured by the BP instrument and is your ‘blood pressure’. When there is high blood pressure due to any reason, the heart has to work harder to pump against this pressure.

Over time this causes the heart muscle to thicken. High blood pressure also weakens the walls of the arteries making them more susceptible to deposition of fatty materials on their inner walls known as atherosclerosis. This increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Is heart disease hereditary?
While heart disease can run in some families, even if one inherits the risks factors that predispose to heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or being overweight, there are measures that can be taken to help avoid developing cardiovascular disease. These include changing to an active lifestyle with enough physical exercise and a healthy diet, staying away from smoking and abuse of alcohol.

Author is Lead Consultant - Cardiac Surgery & Chief of Cardiac Sciences – Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru

By Dr Mahadev Dixit

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