Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) relate to the health of your heart and blood vessels. CVD includes coronary heart disease that affects the blood vessels supplying to the heart muscle and a range of other diseases that harm the blood vessels supplying to the rest of your body. Blood clots, strokes and heart attacks result from these. As per WHO, CVD is the leading cause for death globally. Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia increases the chances of developing CVD.
It’s very normal to feel fearful and worried when you’ve been diagnosed with CVD. However, educating yourself to take the necessary treatment and make lifestyle changes are likely to reduce your risk of cardiac problems.
What types of food should you consume?
A healthy diet is the first step.
- Breakfast – Wholemeal bread or oats porridge with a portion of fruit and smoothie
- Lunch – Wholewheat pasta or brown rice with pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas. Add vegetables, curries and salads as well
- Snack – Fresh or dried fruits, unsalted nuts, seeds and low-fat, low-sugar yoghurt
- Dinner – Vegetable curries with wholegrain rice
- Ensure you consume at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily (1 portion equals to a banana/apple/slice of pineapple/150ml of fruit juice/3 full tablespoons of vegetables)
- Consume unsaturated foods such as oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, sunflower, olive and vegetable oils
Check food labels properly for nutritional guidance.
What types of food should you avoid?
- Limit salt intake to 6g (1 teaspoon) per day. Too much of this raises blood pressure
- Reduce saturated fats such as sausages, meat pies, ghee, butter, lard, cream, hard cheese, cakes, biscuits and coconut or palm oil. These can increase bad cholesterol
- Cut down on processed meats and carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and low-fibre cereals as well as soft drinks and soda
- Full-fat yoghurt, French fries, fried chicken, ice cream, potato chips and red meat are harmful for CVD
How does being active help?
- Maintains a healthy weight, which lowers the chances of high blood pressure
- Blood circulation improves
- Cholesterol and blood pressure levels will be controlled
Aim for daily physical activity with 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week such as brisk walking, cycling, dancing or swimming. A combination of aerobics, strength training, stretching and balance exercises are ideal but consult your doctor before you begin your exercise regime.
How to manage CVD during the lockdown?
Pre-existing health conditions such as CVD places you among the “extremely vulnerable” group for coronavirus. Therefore, social distancing and proper sanitization is essential. You are recommended to:
- Avoid leaving the house except for essential needs
- Use online delivery for shopping
- Get your medicines from an e-pharmacy or those that offer medicine delivery close to your home
- Plan meals ahead to avoid risk of unhealthy diets
Behavioral changes that reduce the risks of CVD
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Quit smoking as it leads to atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in arteries that restrict oxygen and blood flow
- Set goals to motivate yourself to workout, eat healthy, and reduce smoking and alcohol consumption. Reward yourself for meeting targets
- Find support groups online or peers for encouragement
Keep stress levels low because these can compel damaging behaviors such as overeating or indulging in alcohol or smoking. Stress also contributes to hypertension, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which complicates CVD. A few useful techniques:
- Stop negative self-talk
- Count to 10 before reacting
- Listen to inspirational music, podcasts or motivational videos
- Prayer, meditation and mindfulness
- Creative activities such as crafting, painting or home improvement
- Break down large workloads into smaller, manageable tasks
- Connect with nature, loved ones or pets if it’s safe
CVD treatment requires proper medicine intake, for which you could use an online pharmacy to deliver medicine to your doorstep. Taking care of your emotional wellbeing, exercise and proper food consumption helps you to reduce the risk of severe cardiac problems.
 Fact sheet Cardiovascular Diseases, World Health Organisation, 17 May 2017, Link<https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)>
 Coronavirus and Heart Health, Heart.org, Link <https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/taking-care-of-yourself/coping-with-feelings>
 How to get More Fiber into Your Diet, NHS UK, Link< https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/ https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/>
 Avoid these foods for a healthier heart, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing, Link <https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/avoid-these-foods-for-a-healthier-heart>
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