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'How young is your heart?'
« on: September 23, 2006, 11:59:50 AM »
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Dr. S. Pradeep Chand

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon

HEALTHY HEART: World Heart Day is the World Heart Federation's most important advocacy event aimed at increasing public awareness and promoting preventive measures to reduce cardiovascular disease.

Since 1999, the World Heart Federation (WHF) and its 189 cardiology societies and heart foundations in more than 100 countries have celebrated World Heart Day; celebrated annually, on the last Sunday of September.

Each year it is focused on a specific theme and activities around the world including walks, runs, jump rope and fitness sessions. This year's World Heart Day theme is 'How young is your heart' and it will take place on September 24, 2006.

To enjoy life fully, you need a healthy heart. The World Heart Federation organises World Heart Day in order to make everybody aware of the importance of lifestyle to maintain a healthy heart. Controlling the major cardiovascular risk factors, by choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and by not smoking can prevent 80 per cent of heart attacks and strokes and may help the heart to age more slowly.

That's why this year's World Heart Day, under the theme 'How young is your heart?', will encourage people around the world to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to help maintain a young heart for life by controlling the major cardiovascular risk factors, by choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and by not smoking can prevent heart attacks and strokes.

If we put as much effort into keeping our hearts young, we would see a dramatic decrease in the number of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke each year. Heart disease and stroke are the world's greatest killers, claiming 17.5 million lives a year which represents nearly one third of all deaths in the world. Most of us aren't so very conscious of this. The general thinking is that 'this can never happen to me'.

By asking everyone to think about the age of their hearts on World Heart Day we're encouraging the world's population to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle."

Controlling major risk factors such as physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and tobacco use could prevent 80 per cent of heart disease and stroke and help keep the heart healthy. This is why this year's World Heart Day campaign asks: "How young is your heart?"

Physical activity and heart health
Physical activity is vitally important to maintain a healthy heart. Running for one hour or more each week could reduce the risk of heart disease by 42 per cent. A moderate exercise such as a brisk walking of 30 minutes each day has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease by about 18 per cent and stroke by about 11 per cent. Commuting to work by foot is a practical way of achieving this level of physical activity.

Physical inactivity increases the risk of obesity and overweight, diabetes and hypertension which made heart age run faster. Failure to exercise is as bad for health as smoking a packet of cigarettes everyday, experts have warned.

The World Heart Federation said physical inactivity doubles the chances of developing heart disease and increases the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Doctors estimate that between 65 per cent and 85 per cent of the world's population fail to take enough exercise.

The heart needs regular exercise to keep it pumping blood efficiently with every heart beat. Regular activity and its impact on associated risk factors helps to slow down the narrowing of the arteries to the heart and brain, encourages the body to use up excess stored fat, can help to reduce high blood pressure, improves 'good' cholesterol levels (HDL cholesterol) and maintains normal blood glucose levels.

A healthy diet
The famous age-old proverb 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach' is unfortunately leading to serious health problems. For many, a sumptuous, sizzling meal could be more damaging to the heart than the pleasure derived from eating it.

It is also important to balance calories consumed with calories burned to help maintain a healthy heart for life. A balanced diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean meat, fish and pulses, alongside low-fat and fat-free products. Unsaturated soft margarines and oils such as sunflower, corn, rape-seed and olive oil are preferred to saturated fats.

Eating for a youthful heart - antioxidants
Research indicates that some of these foods, ass part of an overall healthful diet, have the potential to delay the onset of many age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease and strokes.

A diet rich in antioxidants is also beneficial in improving and maintaining health, thereby slowing the aging process. Through naturally occurring processes within our bodies, reactive substances known as free radicals that cause damage to our cells are produced.

Research suggests that there is a link between these free radicals and a number of degenerative diseases associated with ageing, such as cardiovascular disease and strokes. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals before they can cause harm.

Antioxidants are present in foods in many forms including vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and polyphenols, and others. Many antioxidant-rich foods can be identified by their bright, distinctive colours - the red of cherries and of tomatoes; the orange of carrots; the yellow of corn, mangoes, and the blue-purple of eggplants and grapes. Some of the most well-known antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E; minerals such as zinc and non-essential compounds such as lycopene and resveratol.

Say no to tobacco
Tobacco use is one of the most important risk factors to control. Quitting will help to keep the heart young as it helps maintain 'good' cholesterol levels, reduces the levels of blood clotting and overall, decreases the chance of a sudden blockage of a blood vessel.

According to the Framingham Heart Study, life duration is substantially shortened by tobacco users. Non-smokers may live about 8 years longer than smokers. With passive smoking increasing the risk of coronary heart disease by 25-30 per cent.

A healthy heart is vital for living life to the full, regardless of age and gender. Unhealthy diets, physical activity and smoking are the leading causes of heart disease and stroke.

These unhealthy behaviours are increasingly common among children and teenagers and are being adopted at an alarmingly early age. That's why World Heart Day this year is focused on how important it is for children, in all parts of the world, to have a heart for life, a special focus this year on childhood obesity.

With the growth in childhood obesity and the lack of physical activity, increasing numbers of children are at risk of heart disease. In response, the American Heart Association is dedicating 2006 World Heart Day to kids' heart health.

"Overweight adolescents have about a 70 per cent chance of becoming overweight adults - increasing their risk for heart disease," he said. "An investment today in the world's children can secure a healthy tomorrow."

Physical activity is virtually important to maintain a healthy heart. Running for one hour or more each week could reduce the risk of heart disease by 42 per cent. A brisk walking of 30 minutes each day has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease by about 18 per cent and stroke by about 11 per cent.

Our own health habits influence our children's. By taking a long-term approach to our own health and well-being through regular physical activity and eating a healthful diet, we are setting a clear example for our own children and helping them build a healthier future for themselves.

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