Written by Williams ABAH

Ways to improve the heart’s health


It is no mean feat to achieve a good level of health for the heart
which is the most important part of the cardiovascular system. It is
important because when the heart fails, no matter what else is well
with the network of blood vessels, the owner of that heart is in
danger of dying. The same is not necessarily true for the other parts
of this system. When the heart is in good health, problems with other
parts of the cardiovascular system will not usually lead to death
except there is some other disease.

Our heart is a muscular organ made up of striated muscles which are
arranged in such a way as to form a pump. It is responsible for
pumping blood around the body so as to supply both oxygen and
nutrients to all tissues and also to remove their waste products. It
begins to pump blood at an average rate of beating some 72 times per
minute from about the 6th week of life in the womb and all through an
individual's life. There is a minimum rest called the refractory
period in between such beats and one can therefore see the importance
of keeping such a machine as healthy as possible.

A recent Health statistic has shown that  approximately one in every
four deaths in the developed countries of the world was due to heart
disease. One of the most important ways to improve the health of the
heart is to improve the diet. The intake of processed red meat and
carbohydrates together with the consumption of food sources rich in
saturated fatty acids can affect the blood. These often cause the
cholesterol levels in the body to rise leading to fat deposition in
the arteries. Arteries are the part of the cardiovascular system that
transports oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body
. It important for the arteries to be as free of any kind of disease
as possible, especially narrowing from within which can be caused by
deposition of cholesterol thus leading to disease conditions such as
angina and coronary artery disease.

As a result it is advised that we work hard to replace such red meat,
carbohydrates and saturated fat as may be found in our diet with
beans,legumes and nuts that are not known to be rich in such harmful
food additives.

Salt is also a problematic condiment added to food and done carelessly
by many people who take salt in harmful quantities.  Salt is known to
lead to hypertension and to sustain it once it has been established in
a person . It is of the utmost importance to eat more
fruits,vegetables and vitamin-rich food which are the sources of low
cholesterol foods, also known as the good cholesterol or high density
cholesterol. These are sources of various substances that help to
reduce the low density cholesterol, in the long term and may even
prevent heart attacks and other features of heart disease.

Therefore, a staple diet of rice , fried plantain and pounded yam or
fufu or eba is to be avoided as much as possible in favour of such
foods as beans , moin - moin and akara .
The next good example for the maintenance of cardiovascular health is
exercise. Low impact exercises like walking briskly for some 30
minutes on a daily basis is good for the heart and the body

It was learnt that thorough sport, like swimming which is both
exhilarating in its effects as well as affording you real freedom to
move in any kind of position you may fancy . You burn calories by
doing so while the water cools your body simultaneously. Jogging and
cycling are also excellent sporting activities especially in the young
and middle - aged groups.

As the calories are burnt, increases to the waist line and weight gain
are avoided to the point that heart disease, high blood pressure and
even adult onset type 2 diabetes can all be avoided. In addition, a
regular pattern of exercising confers a lot of benefits on the
cardiovascular system by improving its efficiency , efficacy and
overall health.

Therefore, exercise improves the blood circulation and tones the
various muscles involved in such activities including the heart.
Exercising vigorously even for half an hour every day helps to
regulate the blood pressure more effectively and keep the blood
glucose in check . Improved blood supply to the brain will improve the
mood and keep the intellect sharp .
The third most important means of maintaining proper heart health is
to abandon cigarette smoking if you engage in it or to avoid starting
it if you do not do so . Several chemical substances in the cigarette
smoke like tar and nicotine lead to damages to the inner wall of the
blood vessels , irregular heart beat and fast and abnormal heart beat.
Tobacco is present in smokes, pipes and cigars and that is said to be
particularly poisonous to heart muscle. As a result, this substance
can lead to a rise in blood pressure and cause the heart muscles to
beat faster and more forcefully before it can maintain the normal
level of oxygen and nutrient supply to the tissues. Such a scenario
can quickly lead to heart failure and a heart attack because the
muscles of the heart then have less time to rest between beats while
expending more energy to sustain what it used to perform before.

Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry so that
it becomes easier for the blood to form clots leading to strokes and
sudden heart attacks.
Another measure we must employ in order to diminish the risk of heart
disease is to minimise our exposure to stress. When an individual is
under stress,the body respond by producing more of the hormone
cortisol, a steroid , which helps to reduce the effect of such stress
by helping the body cope better. However , such methods of coping
ultimately cause a long - term inflammation in the tissues and even
the blood vessels causing a variety of health challenges.

Most of these challenges are weight gain, over-eating,inadequate sleep
, eating in-between meals and obesity as well as hypertension and
diabetes. In addition, stress causes the glands that sit just above
the kidneys to produce adrenaline and nor -adrenaline , both of which
are known to accelerate the heart, the muscles and the nervous system
. Both of these hormones acting together impose additional pressure on
the heart thereby causing it to work extra hard with the risk of
failing suddenly. Stress induces the formation and deposition of
plaques in the blood vessels as well as in the heart thereby
increasing the risk of heart failure or a stroke . Therefore, a scheme
to minimise your exposure to stress such as delegation of work,
meditation and taking vacations away from work all help in this
regard.
As it is with stress , it is with excessive consumption of alcohol
which has been known to greatly make the heart prone to suffering from
irregular and abnormally fast beating.
 

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