Recently I went to take some routine medical exam. My cholesterol was checked as part of the test. When the results came back, it came as a surprise to me to find that my cholesterol was on higher side. I intervened immediately and got it in control. In course of my intervention, I did some research and found a lot of interesting information. So I decided to write a blog post.
Human heart beats nonstop. From birth to death, asleep or awake,he heart is pumping blood in arteries constantly. But as we grow older, there is plaque in our arteries. That narrows down the arteries. And sometimes a piece of that plaque breaks apart and starts flowing with blood. If this piece is big enough, it blocks the artery, thus cutting of blood supply to heart. If medical treatment is not received immediately, or if the damage is too severe, the heart and brain can run out of fresh blood. The result – death. If somehow you got lucky and survive, it still puts too much stress on heart can cause permanent heart damage.
We all have heard of some relative that passed away because of heart attack. Mostly we just assume that it was act of fate and that that person’s time had come. But if someone had done autopsy on the dead person, we would find blocked arteries by years of plaque accumulation. What if I tell you that it does not have to be like this for you – there is a lot in your hand and you can do a things to minimize the chances of you getting heart attack.
About the piece of plaque that blocks the artery and causes heart attack. Where does it come from? It comes from plaque that has gathered in arteries over the years. Usually as you get older, there will be some plaque in your artery. If you have high blood pressure, that’s because your arteries are narrowed because of the plaque.
Where does this plaque comes from? Cholesterol is a thick liquid like substance created by your body that is responsible for plaque accumulation. Tendency to have high cholesterol depends on number of factors. One of them is genetics. If you are of Indian (or generally speaking South East Asian) descent, you probably have a gene that can give you high cholesterol. Recent data is showing that heart disease is a huge problem for India and will continue to get worse in recent time. Not only more people are dying, people are dying young, some even in their late 30s or early 40s. So if you are Indian and 30 years or older, please schedule a test immediately with your doctor and see if you have high cholesterol.
If you are Indian in United states, the chances that you have high cholesterol are even more. Because the lifestyle here is sedentary and food is rich in saturated fats, both of which make the problem worse. The saturated fat is processed by body to make cholesterol. Food, typically cheese, fried food, has lots of bad fats that can quickly bloat your cholesterol numbers. If your cholesterol his high, you are at very high risk of getting heart attack. But if your cholesterol is well managed, the risk is reduced significantly.
What can you do to reduce the cholesterol in your blood? Do the following five steps and see your cholesterol plummet and your heart health improve.
1. Stop smoking. You must have heard a lot about smoking cancer. But how many of you know that smoking can make your cholesterol profile much worst and increase your chance of getting heart attack?
2. Watch your diet – Fat is found in oil, cheese, milk, etc. The good bad ugly of fat world is as follows.
- Monounsaturated fat – Good for you. This comes from olive oil, walnuts etc. This is healthy fat.
- Polyunsaturated fat – also somewhat good for you, but not as good as monounsaturated fat.
- Saturated fat – Bad for you. Food like oil in fried food, cheese has a lot of saturated fat. Typically you should not eat more than 25 g of saturated fat. That is the fat that comes from may be two to three cheese slices. Yes that’s true. That’s the recommended level of intake of saturated fat. Make it a habit to read food labels. Most of them will mention content of saturated fat per serving. Based on your serving size, you can calculate the amount of saturated fat you are eating. If you are eating in restaurants, watch out. You don’t know what oil the Batata Wada is fried in. You may be taking in day’s worth of saturated fat. Eating a whole cadbury? You just ate three four days worth of saturated fat. Start reading labels and you will be shocked to find how much saturated fat you are eating.
- Trans fat – UGLY. Avoid it at all costs. If you are buying oil, make sure the label says trans fat free. This is absolutely the worst kind. This is artificial fat, not found in nature. It is the worst thing you can eat.
Reduce eating fried, processed, packed food. Avoid eating food where you don’t know what oil they used. Eat more vegetables and fibers.
3. Get regular exercise – Exercise not only burns fat, but does a lot of good things to your body. One of that is increases the good cholesterol. In cholesterol, there are two types, good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). LDL is the stuff that kills you. HDL is the stuff that saves you. Exercise reduces LDL and increases HDL. Also watching diet in combination with exercise can lower your weight, thus reducing stress on your heart. Exercise, even a simple one like walking, can make a big difference.
4. Get regular checkups and start medications if necessary – Out of sight is out of mind. If you keep getting cholesterol checkups regularly, your heart health will not be out of your sight and you will remain focused on good measures. Medicines like statins help immensely. Watch out for folk tales and Ayurvedic medications. I have nothing against Ayurveda. I know Ayurveda has some excellent medications, but rarely it is backed by objective scientific research like double blind trials. So I would rather not count on it when it comes to heart health.
By taking the measures above, you can reduce the accumulation of plaque buildup in artery. That would mean significantly reducing your chances of getting a heart attack. That would mean several more healthy years with your family and friends.
Remember, heart attack is not purely act of fate. It is mostly your own choice and partly aided by fate. Your heart health is in your own hand and YOU CAN IMPROVE IT.
Please note: I am not a medical professional. The information presented here is accurate to the best of my information, but is collected after talking with medical professionals and reading medical research. The best thing to do is to contact your doctor and also do your own research.