Most of us love the winter months, chilly weather coupled with good food and warm drinks and sunshine are what makes us happy. Those of you living in regions where snowfall, rain, sleet and sub zero temperatures are the norm it is a little tough. Other than the physical inconveniences, health also gets affected. Common cold , flu, fevers are more prevalent but winters are particularly of concern for heart patients. Winters usually sees an increase in Heart attacks, strokes but you can winter proof your heart with healthy habits and good food.
During the winter season, the first physiological task for the body is to maintain body temperature. For this , our Sympathetic nervous system is activated which constricts the blood vessels to prevent heat loss. This may cause high blood pressure and also decrease the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. The heart works overtime to maintain blood supply to all the organs and keep us warm , this may also cause stress to our heart. Other risk factors like Cholesterol and chances of developing clots are also increased in cold climate. All these together increase the risk of precipitating a cardio vascular event .
You can keep yourself safe by following some simple rules:
A balanced diet with lots of vegetables, adequate proteins, whole grains, healthy fats and fruits is the mantra for ensuring all nutrients that are protective to your heart are provided to the body.
I. Healthy fats are essential for protecting against heart diseases. Both the quantity and quality are crucial. Choose a combination of oils to get it right. Peanut / sunflower oil in combination with mustard oil is a source of heart healthy Monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower the bad LDL . 500 gm/ month/ person is all you need.
II. Omega -3 is a fatty acid found to be protective to the heart because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Present in fatty fish like salmon, sardine,lake trout, omega -3 is associated with decreased triglycerides, reduction of irregular heartbeat, and reducing clot formation. Walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds are good vegetarian sources.
III. Whole grains: Keep the white rice, naans and refined milled flour for another day. Choosing whole grains like parboiled rice, brown rice, whole wheat, Bajra, Barley, Oats, Quinoa add fibre which is crucial for lowering LDL and total cholesterol. In addition the fibre also helps control other risk factors like Diabetes and BP. Whole grains also provide nutrients like thiamin (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), niacin (Vitamin B3), folate (Vitamin B9), iron, magnesium and selenium.
IV. Go nuts: Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts, are sources of healthy monounsaturated fats, proteins and have been found to be protective to heart in a number of large studies. Their fats are associated with lowering of bad LDL and increasing good HDL Nuts also contain important nutrients like Vitamin E , folate and fibre that are good for the heart. Nuts contain an amino acid arginine which is a precursor for Nitric oxide , known for its ability to relax blood vessels and ease the flow of blood. incorporate nuts as a snack daily but keep to 28 gm, one fistful/ day
V. Fruits and vegetables add colour texture and a load of nutrients like fibre, vitamin C, A, beta carotene, minerals like zinc , magnesium, potassium, iron all of which promote overall health and also protect the heart. Vegetables and fruits are the most important source of phytonutrients, plan compounds that have strong antioxidant and anti- inflammatory properties which are one of the most common risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Lycopene present in tomato, red peppers, lutein in Brussels sprouts, spinach, lettuce ,Resveratrol in peanuts and grapes, Anthocyanin’s in berries, radish help with the health of blood vessels, and heart health. Fill up half your plate with vegetables and eat 2-3 servings of fresh fruit daily.
VI. Eat on time: When stuck at home we tend to miss our meals or have them at odd hours. Youreating window is 7am to 9pm. Eat at proper times, it will prevent overeating and wrong snacking. Do not skip your breakfast, it is the most important meal of he day.
Exercise is important for maintaining over all wellbeing and especially for heart health. Avoid exposure to cold, go for a 30 minute walk when the sun is up and if it is extremely cold exercise indoors. You tube has many easy videos to follow exercise programs and can be used daily while staying indoors. Exercise will
I. Warm up your body.
II. Exercise lowers BP by slowing down the heart rate while resting.
III. Exercise will ensure that your weight stays healthy. Overweight and obesity is a major risk factor for heart diseases.
IV. A combination of aerobic workout- walking, stepping, running, along with strength training – weight lifting, resistance training, improve the ability of the muscles to take up oxygen from the blood. This helps reduce the workload on the heart and also improves the health of heart muscles.
V. Exercise helps reduce stress and actually helps in improving your mood.
VI. Exercise is anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for heart diseases, controlling the same helps protect the heart.
A goodnights sleep is an important factor for overall health. During severe weather conditions,when we are confined to our homes we may land up sleeping at odd hours. Don’t do that, in addition to sleep it will also interfere with proper meal timings, exercise routine. Make a time table and follow the pattern daily to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy.
Winters can be enjoyed safely by heart patients, just follow the healthy lifestyle. Healthy life style also protects against becoming a patient of cardiovascular diseases. To be more safe , get a health check up and doctor / diet consult , it is a good way to protect yourself this winter.