Over the past three decades, cardiovascular disease has seen a concerning rise, with fatalities climbing from 12.1 million in 1990 to a staggering 20.5 million in 2021. The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic further aggravated this scenario. Recent studies have indicated that individuals recovering from the virus have heightened risks of strokes and heart attacks, with one significant factor being the development of high blood pressure in nearly a fifth of hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
World Heart Day serves as a poignant reminder of these alarming statistics. Dr. Boon Lim, a respected cardiologist at Imperial College London and author of “Keeping your Heart Healthy,” emphasizes that such commemorative days should inspire a collective re-evaluation of our health habits. Dr. Lim encourages individuals to use these occasions to revitalize their commitment to wellness.
Initiated in 2000 by Antoni Bayés De Luna, then president of the World Heart Foundation, World Heart Day was designed to raise awareness about heart health. Yet, Dr. Lim laments that the general awareness remains insufficient. He underscores how our daily choices, including diet and stress management, play pivotal roles in heart disease progression. Alarmingly, over half of global heart disease cases can be traced back to modifiable factors such as body weight, cholesterol, smoking habits, and blood pressure.
Experts universally recommend that to bolster heart health, individuals must actively manage these risk factors. This involves a combination of weight management, dietary alterations, quitting smoking, regular physical activity, and stress reduction.
In this context, Dr. Lim highlights several critical aspects:
- Children’s Physical Activity: The contemporary lifestyle, heavily influenced by technology and further restricted due to the pandemic, has limited children’s physical activity. Dr. Lim stresses that early childhood is an essential phase for developing muscle and bone structures vital for heart health. Encouraging physical activity in children not only shapes their physiological growth but also instills a positive attitude towards exercise.
- Salt Consumption: While unhealthy fats and sugars are commonly vilified, excessive salt consumption remains underdiscussed. A recent European study linked high salt intake to doubled heart failure risks. Excessive salt prompts the body to retain more water, increasing blood pressure and straining the heart. Nutrition experts advocate for cautious consumption, given the hidden salt content in many processed foods.
- Compact Workouts: A silver lining for those with packed schedules, research indicates that concentrated exercise sessions during weekends offer similar heart benefits as daily workouts. However, daily light activities like brisk walking can be beneficial.
- Power of Laughter: Multiple studies have correlated laughter with cardiovascular benefits. Laughing relaxes heart tissues, enhances oxygen circulation, and releases endorphins, which combat inflammation.
Lastly, Dr. Lim offers a personal glimpse into his heart-healthy routine. He adopts time-restricted eating, focusing on a balanced diet devoid of processed foods. Daily meditation, regular physical activity, and engagement in hobbies like singing and playing the guitar form integral parts of his regimen.
In conclusion, while heart disease statistics are daunting, with informed choices and dedicated efforts, individuals can forge a path to better cardiovascular health.