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Saturday, February 14, 2009

50 tips for a healthy's finally here

This piece for was a challenge. It started off as a conversation with Elton. He told me that Times Wellness (it's a health publication from The Times of India group) editor had bounced off the idea of finding 50 tips for a healthy heart for the new microsite on heart. While they all liked the idea, Elton confessed to me that 50 was 'pushing it a little'. "I think 30 is the max you'll get." I asked him if I could give it a shot...I like challenges...the kinds where you have to really dig deep to unearth information. Elton obliged and I got started. The first couple of hours were easy - I found 26 at a stretch. I started again next morning. 34, 35, 36...things were getting more and more difficult now. After all, who compiles 50 tips for a healthy heart? You google 'tips for the heart', you will get 10 at a go that cover smoking, exercise, diet, weight loss and stress. I looked beyond general health sites to more specific kinds of medicine - allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, ayurveda and even yoga for some help. Once at 45, after almost six hours of endeavour, I felt like giving up. Man, where could I get five more from? I had exhausted all my resources....Then, brainwave happened - I started looking at age groups and health. Many sites list tips for women, kids, senior citizens, menopausal women, office executives...I browsed and browsed and soon I managed 49. The 50th took some time...but it finally came. And there I was after nine hours and 15 minutes sitting with a mammoth 6,000-word piece. I finally managed to trim it down to around 2300. It's finally up on the new site
I showed it to a friend yesterday. He was surprised, "How the hell did you find 50?"
I replied, "A bit of a knowledge of science coupled with all the editing tricks I had in my bag and here you are."

Here it is:

50 tips for a healthy heart
Eisha Sarkar

You don't have to wait till forty before you start thinking of your heart and health. As Mark Twain said, "The heart is the real fountain of the youth." So we can look beyond the wrinkles on our face and try to reduce our stress. Have a heart... and take care of it. Here are 50 tips for a healthy heart:
1. Stop smoking: Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a person can do to live longer. If you are a smoker, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker. But from the moment you stop smoking, the risk of heart attack starts to reduce. With public smoking bans recently introduced, there has never been a better time to give up.
2. Cut down on salt: Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
3. Avoid: Chips, salted nuts, canned and packet soups and sauces, baked beans and canned vegetables, pork pies, pizzas and ready meals.
4 Have a balanced diet: A healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and can also help increase the chances of survival after a heart attack. You should try to have a balanced diet, containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice.
5. Avoid: Biscuits, cakes, pastries and dairy products that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
6. Monitor your alcohol: Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and also lead to weight gain. Binge drinking will increase your risk of having a heart attack, so you should aim to limit your intake to one to two units a day.
7. Exercise: The heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to keep fit so that it can pump blood efficiently round your body with each heartbeat. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily. If this seems too daunting, start off gently and build up gradually. A brisk walk can get your heart rate up and give you a solid workout. The best exercise is the one you feel good about and can do over and over again.
8. Manage your weight: Carrying a lot of extra weight as fat can greatly affect your health and increases the risk of life-threatening conditions such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, start by making small, but healthy changes to what you eat, and try to become more active.
9. Keep a tab on your blood pressure: The higher your blood pressure, the shorter your life expectancy. People with high blood pressure run a higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. A blood pressure level of 140 over 90 mm of mercury or higher is considered high.
10. Get your cholesterol levels checked by your doctor: High levels of cholesterol in the blood – produced by the liver from saturated fats – can lead to fatty deposits in your coronary arteries that increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diseases that affect the circulation. 11. Eat high-fibre foods: Porridge, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables can help lower your cholesterol level.
12. Manage your stress levels: If you find things are getting on top of you, you may fail to eat properly, smoke and drink too much and this may increase your risk of a heart attack.
13. Check your family history: If a close relative is at risk of developing coronary heart disease from smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, obesity and diabetes, then you could be at risk too.
14. Know your signs: Early detection of coronary heart disease can help in prevention of a serious heart attack. Tightness or discomfort in the chest, neck, arm or stomach which comes on when you exert yourself but goes away with rest may be the first sign of angina, which can lead to a heart attack if left untreated.
15. Cook: Use unsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, olive, canola, safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower, or peanut oils for cooking.
16. Gluttony doesn't help: Eat smaller portions.
17. Avoid: A second helping of food.
18. Eat: More fruits and vegetables.
19. Hold off on angioplasty: If an angiogram reveals severe narrowing in more than two major coronary arteries, you will need bypass surgery. If blockages are less severe, immediate angioplasty is not a good idea. It triggers a heart attack in 1-2 % of patients.
20. Drink Tea: Green or black, tea's good for your heart. Adding ginger and cayenne to your diet can improve your circulation. A simple tea of ginger, a pinch of cayenne, lemon, and honey is a delicious remedy for improving your blood flow.
21. Reduce physical stress: While exercise is good, if there is underlying heart disease, too much physical stress can be dangerous. In a person who has coronary artery disease, for instance, exercise can place demands on the heart muscle that the diseased coronary arteries cannot meet, and the heart becomes ischemic i.e., starved for oxygen.) The ischemic heart muscle can cause either angina (chest pain), or a heart attack (actual death of cardiac muscle).
22. Drink: Add garlic to buttermilk and drink it twice a day. Garlic is very crucial and useful in controlling blood pressure.
23. Fenugreek helps: Wet fenugreek in water and store it overnight. Chew them the next morning on an empty stomach. This practice helps in lowering cholesterol and fat levels, which further reduce the chances of having a heart attack.
24. Follow breathing exercises: This exercise has beneficial effect on the functioning of the cardio-pulmonary system.
25. Pranayama: Breathing exercises enhance the functioning of the cardio-pulmonary system. Pranayama helps improve the oxygen carrying capacity of blood vessels.
26. Meditate: It is best way to get rid of your anxiety. Practising Transcendental Meditation technique twice daily for 20 minutes each is said to help lower blood pressure, reversing arterial blockage and enhance resistance to all types of stress.
27. Ginger's good: Consuming a small amount of ginger every day can prevent you from heart disease.
28. Listen to soothing music: Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function. Music, selected by study participants because it made them feel good and brought them a sense of joy, caused tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate (or expand) in order to increase blood flow.
29. Get your zzzs: Research studies have linked sleep deprivation to blood pressure problems, depression and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Ayurveda considers sleep just as important as diet in maintaining health. Practice good bedtime habits – favour restful, calming activities as bedtime draws near to help disconnect the mind from the senses. Keep your bedroom clear of distractions – television, computers, and work-related material. Stay away from stimulants in the evening.
30. Say no to drugs: Both cocaine and its derivative, crack, are powerful stimulants of the nervous system. Regardless of whether cocaine is snorted, injected, smoked, dissolved on the tongue or taken in various other ways, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to give the user a sudden surge of energy. It can cause over-stimulation of the heart, which could result in abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia). These abnormal heart rhythms can be fatal, leading in some cases to sudden cardiac death.
31. Control diabetes: People with diabetes are about 4-5 times more vulnerable to heart related diseases. This is because diabetes damages your heart blood vessels. Damage to heart blood vessels can cause strokes and heart attacks.
32. Sex is good: Regular sex can even keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart attack. Orgasms boost blood circulation, helping the body rid itself of harmful toxins. Sex uses every muscle group, gets the heart and lungs working hard, and burns about 300 calories an hour.
33. Snack on pista: Eating pistachio nuts every day can keep your health hale and hearty.
34. And chocolate has its benefits too: A study has found that eating a few squares of dark chocolate a day could help prevent problems with blood flow. Chocolate contains high quantities of antioxidants called flavonoids, which prevent the hardening of arteries. These benefits are not shared by milk chocolate though.
35. It's not all that fishy: If you are angling for ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, start eating a diet of seafood typically served up in Japan. Researchers have found that eating seafood like tuna, sardines, salmon and other fish, which contain Omega-3 fatty acids, on a regular basis can protect people from clogged arteries.
36. Guzzle coffee: Coffee lovers can drink up without fear of increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a major new study that found people could consume as many as six cups a day without upping their risk.
37. Reduce palpitations: Try breathing exercises or deep relaxation (a step-by-step process of tensing and then relaxing every muscle group in your body) when palpitations occur.
38. Laugh out loud: Laughter therapy or laughter yoga is one such natural way of beating stress. It is a meditative practice blended with simple exercises. It includes gentle yoga breath-in and breath-out exercises, stretching and rhythmic clapping, and chanting of 'ho-ho ha-ha' sound. This 'ho-ho ha-ha' sound later induces laughter.
39. Use a heart stress relief pillow: Clutch them to your chest and they vibrate with a special rhythmic heartbeat to calm your nerves.
40. Take adequate dosage of vitamin C: Long-term deficiency of the vitamin makes the body incapable of repairing blood vessels properly, resulting in large cholesterol deposits in the vascular system. This can cause heart disease. Doses of 5,000 to 10,000 mg of vitamin C per day can help prevent heart disease. Around 60% of the vitamin goes into making collagen for the repair of arteries and other cells.
41. Vitamin E is essential: A Cambridge study has found that Vitamin E reduces the risk of both fatal and non-fatal heart attacks by 47% and non-fatal heart attacks by 77%. Vitamin E is a generic term for a group of antioxidant compounds called tocotrienols and tocopherols. Studies have shown that antioxidant compounds protect the body from the formation of oxygen free-radicals – unstable oxygen molecules that can line the interior of blood vessels – thus restricting blood flow. The richest food sources of Vitamin E are vegetable oils, margarine, wheat germ, most nuts, and most vegetables, especially green, leafy ones.
42. Keep a tab on your calcium intake: Calcium deposits in the coronary arteries can cause blockages. Those over 70 years of age or with a known case of heart disease must avoid taking calcium supplements.
43. Aspirin helps prevent heart attack: If you're already at risk for heart disease, taking daily aspirin may reduce your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack as lowers your risk of getting blood clots. Blood clots can lead to a heart attack in people with heart disease. Clots can also cause heart attacks in people who have other problems that can lead to heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. However, do consult your doctor before starting aspirin treatment.
44. Cranberry cocktail: Add a glass of cranberry juice to your diet and reap the benefits. A study in pigs has found cranberry juice powder helps relax blood vessels clogged with high cholesterol and narrowed by atherosclerosis (or the hardening of the arteries).
45. Come out of the smog: It's bad enough that smog damages the environment, but did you know breathing in air pollution could also harden your arteries? New data is linking smog with cardiovascular disease. This is unfortunate for residents of cities. All the more reason to find other ways to keep your cholesterol level low and your arteries clear.
46. Pomegranate punch: Scientists report that pomegranate juice helped prevent fatty deposits from collecting on artery walls in mice. The juice also keeps human heart cells healthier by increasing nitric oxide production, which helps increase blood flow.
47. Grapefruit's a threat:Taking statins or other drugs for therapy? Watch out for that glass of grapefruit juice then as it could result in raising your blood pressure.
48. Drink red wine: Red wine contains resveratrol that is said to be good for your heart. Besides it contains other antioxidants that do a lot of good to your body. And if you don't like the alcohol, binging on grapes or grape juice can help too cut heart disease risk.
49. Avoid MSG in Chinese cooking: Cut monosodium glutamate aka ajinomoto in your diet as it can induce irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation and rapid heart beat (called tachycardia).
50. For menopausal women: Take oestrogens at the start of the menopause. It's believed that oestrogen increases the good HDL cholesterol and has a beneficial effect on blood vessels. Long-term treatment with oestrogen also protects against osteoporosis (brittle bones), senile vaginitis and fights depression.

To check out my other articles on, go to

They're all listed there...happy reading!


Unknown said...

hai la eish, how the hell did you find 50 tips. Dhoond dhoond ke mujhe 30 mile when i wrote something similar two years ago. Ek kaam kar, become a freelancer for Wellness aur ye documentary ka kaam chodo :P

But a brilliant article nonetheless

Unknown said...

congrats on the 50 tips :D

btw, you can use this link to directly get search results for your name...