World Heart Day on September 29th reminds us of the global significance of heart health and the importance of its prevention, with the theme ‘Use Heart, Know Heart.’ Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of mortality in India, responsible for nearly 28% of deaths in the nation, according to the Indian Heart Association. However, amidst this concerning landscape, there is a glimmer of hope. It’s crucial to recognize that a considerable portion of heart-related issues is preventable and, in many cases, reversible. To help you take control of your heart health, we are going to share four essential tips from the ‘30-Day Heart Tune-Up’ audiobook by Dr. Steven Masley on Audible. These tips will empower you to reverse heart diseases and improve your overall heart health!
Tip 1: Tame Diabetes
Individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease compared to those with well-managed blood sugar levels. Understanding the correlation between heart health and diabetes is crucial for overall well-being. In the audiobook, Dr. Steven Masley emphasizes that diabetes isn’t just about elevated blood sugar levels but is rooted in a deeper issue – your body’s inability to regulate blood sugar effectively. “The best test to monitor people with type 2 diabetes is the HgbA1C level (or hemoglobin A1C). This essentially measures the degree to which your blood proteins are sugar-coated. The more sugar that is caramelized on your proteins, the faster the proteins burn and the quicker you age. A normal HgbA1c level is less than 5.7%. Levels over 7% are considered uncontrolled and unhealthy, and anything over 8% is just plain terrible.” Dr. Masley advises adopting a lifestyle tailored to your genetic makeup, which includes incorporating more daily physical activity and eliminating refined carbs from your diet.
Tip 2: Control Blood Pressure
Dr. Masley recommends understanding your blood pressure numbers, both systolic (when your heart beats) and diastolic (when your heart is at rest) because, “high blood pressure is important in predicting cardiovascular disease. It is a direct marker of cardiovascular function.” Keeping your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg is crucial to minimize arterial plaque growth. Achieving this involves focusing on daily physical activity and ensuring your diet includes the right balance of nutrients. He states, “First, if you’re inactive or not aerobically fit, your arterial walls will become weak and stiff because you are not exercising them enough. Second, if your diet does not include a daily portion of leafy green vegetables, you will lack vitamin K. Without it, your arteries will also become calcified and stiff. Third, if you don’t eat enough of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, you will not get sufficient potassium – a mineral essential for your blood vessels to dilate and keep blood pressure normal.”
Tip 3: Combat Obesity and Excessive Body Fat
Extra body fat is linked to higher cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, as stated in the audiobook. However, Dr. Masley highlights that being highly fit can offset some of the risks associated with being overweight. Instead of solely relying on BMI, he suggests focusing on body fat measurements. “A much better method I rely on is measuring your actual body fat. You’ll find a tool for body fat goals and calculations in Appendix II, ‘Dr. Masley’s Recommended Body Fat Percentage Rates’. However, you’ll need a special scale (such as a bioelectrical impedance scale) or other high-tech equipment (DEXA scanner or water immersion tank) to get an accurate result. Although the bioelectrical impedance scale has a fancy name, it is available at many stores that sell housewares.” Physical fitness significantly reduces cardiovascular risks associated with excess weight. Regular physical activity and a high-fiber diet are key components of improving heart health, regardless of your current weight.
Tip 4: Replace Cholesterol Myths
Contrary to common belief, the majority of your cholesterol doesn’t stem from your dietary choices. Instead, your liver generates it while you’re at rest during sleep. Interestingly, “eating saturated fat (found in fatty dairy products and meats) does more to increase cholesterol production than by simply eating foods high in cholesterol. Yet, saturated fat increases both good and bad cholesterol, so the net effect from clean saturated fat may be harmless.” Not all saturated fats are created equal; some varieties appear to offer health benefits. Saturated fats found in dark chocolate and coconut, for example, have more positive attributes compared to those derived from fatty dairy and meats. “Moderate egg consumption doesn’t raise cholesterol levels. Even better, organic, free-range chickens fed flaxseed produce eggs with much less saturated fat and much more healthy fats. (However, it’s advisable to skip the bacon and syrup-laden pancakes on the side.) It’s important to note that if you are taking a statin cholesterol medication, it only provides partial protection. This means that you can’t consume whatever you want without consequences. Statins work by signaling your liver to reduce cholesterol production while you’re asleep.Improving your heart health is a journey that starts with understanding the root causes of cardiovascular disease and making proactive choices in your lifestyle. These tips from the ‘30-Day Heart Tune-Up’ by Dr. Steven Masley on Audible provide a roadmap to prevent or reverse heart disease. On this World Heart Day, take a step toward better heart health by incorporating these tips into your life. Your heart will thank you for it