The heart is a muscular organ that functions like a pump by moving blood through a fine, interconnected network of blood vessels. One set of blood vessels collect oxygen-rich blood from various parts of the body and gets it to the heart. It is then sent to all parts of the body through another separate channel of vessels.
The blood also transports various nutrients to the different body parts. Fat molecules or cholesterol is one of them. In fact, with changing diet patterns, there are more of fat molecules. They are heavier than the other particles, and so tend to settle down along the walls. This is known as plaque formation. This attracts more fat molecules to settle down and gradually forms a larger mass of fat cells. It also reduces the diameter of the vessel, thereby lowering the amount of blood that reaches the target organs.
Another effect it has is that it encourages the heart to exert extra pressure to push the blood through the vessels. There are simple ways to reduce blood pressure (BP), and some of these are listed below.
- Eat healthy: Avoid processed and/or packaged foods. Increase the intake of fresh foods with lots of grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Include antioxidants like flaxseed, olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids to improve heart health. Avoid foods rich in calcium, sodium and magnesium. Increase consumption of potassium, which is good for heart.
- Exercise regularly: Exercising has multiple benefits, and one of them is to improve heart health. It improves circulation, keeps the heart muscles active and strong and helps them pump blood better throughout the body.
- Quit smoking: Smoking has severe effects on the overall health of an individual and heart health in particular. So quitting smoking can be hugely beneficial for the heart. It reduces the rate of plaque build-up and also helps in reversal.
- Practise weight management: An increasing waistline is definitely not good for your heart, so watch your weight and keep your body mass index (BMI) in check. Watch what you eat, work out, and get your weight under control.
- Follow stress management: The effect that stress has on our health cannot be underrated. Be it yoga, music, meditation, exercise or spending time with family/friends, choose what works best for you and learn to relax and manage stress.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: More than two drinks per day can increase blood pressure significantly. So if you can’t control, just quit.
Increased blood pressure is more rampant than what it was a few decades back. The age of onset is also reduced, with people in 30s now having hypertension. Making the above lifestyle changes can help lower your BP. Lifestyle diseases are now starting early in child hood. It is important to allow them to eat healthy food and physical activity. Smoking etc starts in school and need to be prohibited.
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