For A Healthy Heart

Healthy Heart

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Free radicals are harmful compounds released during inflammation, or infection. They may, as a result, cause heart disease, also cancer — and, affect our body in a host of ways. Is there a mode — to defuse the free radical effect? Yes, ‘go for’ antioxidants, viz., vitamin C, among other things. Here’s more — 

The body, in the normal course, can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, or when their production becomes excessive, harm can ensue. It is obvious that free radical damage accrues with age.

Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules — or, free radicals.

Umpires:

Antioxidants act as jury in the body, and halt potentially harmful situations caused by free radicals. They help protect the body from free radical damage. This does not, of course, mean that you can go on a splurge with them, because anything in surplus is not a worthy idea.

There are a multitude of natural chemicals and substances that have antioxidant and beneficial effects. Clinicians suggest that the best way to make sure we have adequate antioxidant nutrients is through a balanced diet consisting of 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day in addition to a supplement with the right amount of vitamins and minerals. 

Things To Ponder

Antioxidant don’t transform the free radicals. They actually act as foragers and help prevent cell and tissue damage that could, otherwise, lead to cellular impairment and illness, including cancer.

Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant. It acts primarily in the body’s cellular fluid.

It is also a key element in combating free radical development caused by environmental pollution, and radiation, including smoking cigarettes, chemicals, pesticides etc., Besides, it helps return vitamin E to its active form. Studies have correlated high vitamin C intakes with low rates of cancer — especially, cancers of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus.

Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body. It is also one of the most efficient chain-breaking antioxidants available, besides being the primary defender against oxidation, and lipid peroxidation, or creation of unstable molecules containing more oxygen than is normal.

Vitamin E is suggested to protect against heart [cardiovascular] disease by defending against LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol oxidation which plays a key role in the formation of arterial plaque [atherosclerosis].

Any free radical bombardment, it must be emphasised, causes a typical human cell to undergo thousands of mutations, or changes, daily.

Stop The Free Radical Fire, Right Now

The key to having a healthy body is to patch-up the damage caused by free radicals before it is too late. This means that you need to protect tissue cells from the free radical invasion before they cause mutations, or changes.

Most of the antioxidants are derived from plant sources. They are also called phytochemicals. About 70,000 such plant compounds have been identified — the most effective among them being vitamin A, C, the most potent, and E, as already cited. They are also fêted by the acronym — ACE.

It is imperative to underscore that each cell produces its own antioxidants, although our ability to produce antioxidants decreases with age. It is, therefore, vital that our diet contains, to emphasise the point yet again, a regular supply of antioxidants, especially phytochemicals — fruits and vegetables — along with a regular intake of additional, or supplemental, vitamins and minerals.

Free Radicals & Heart Disease:

The cells in our body are like small industrial units, where digestion takes place inside the cell. This converts raw materials, as in the industrial unit, into energy and protein compounds. Yet, unlike a factory, these mechanisms are accomplished by complex enzyme bustle in our body. The cell acts like a control system — it decides what needs to ‘go in and go out’ of the cell.

The cell membrane is made up of lipids — e.g., cholesterol — proteins and water. Free radicals can cause lipid peroxidation, where the fat becomes stale. This, in other words, is the beginning of cell degeneration.

Causes Of Atherosclerosis 

  • Genetic and/or family history
  • Pollution, most notably air
  • Smoking
  • Processed foods
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Diabetes.
  • Lack of exercise
  • High caffeine intake
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of proper rest
  • Poor diet ‘supplanted’ by excess consumption of fast-, or junk-food. 

Warning Signs & Symptoms 

The following list includes the early warning signs of arterial blockage, or blocked arteries. They are not normal signs of aging, because we are witness to seeing people as young as 18-20 suffering from blockages in their arteries. The inference — age alone does not cause blocked arteries, although it tends to cause the problem often.  

  • Fingers, or toes, often feel cold
  • Numbness, or heaviness, in arms or legs
  • Cramps while writing
  • Sharp, diagonal crease in your earlobe
  • Tingling sensation in lips, or fingers
  • Aches, or pains, in the leg while walking
  • Memory blues
  • Ankles swell during the course of the day
  • Breathlessness on slight exertion, or when lying down
  • Whitish ring under the outer part of the eye [cornea].

Steps To A Healthy Heart

  • Maintain an active lifestyle and healthy weight
  • Exercise and/or walk regularly — at least 20-30 minutes, 4-5 times a week
  • Meet dietary guidelines and consume a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables [4-5 servings a day]
  • Avoid active and passive smoking
  • Keep your blood pressure and sugar levels under control
  • Eat a healthy diet, low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

NB: If you find it difficult to meet dietary guidelines, consider following an appropriate food programme, along with a good heart health supplement, in consultation with your physician. 

7-Step Diet Plan

Dietary changes favourably influence all risk factors. It is, therefore, advisable that you follow the below-mentioned plan for a healthy, active life Healthy Heart

  • Reduce your total fat intake to 30 per cent, or less of total energy intake
  • Reduce intake of saturated fat to 1/3 of total fat intake [replacement with unsaturated fats from vegetable and marine sources]
  • Reduce intake of cholesterol to less than 300mg a day
  • Increase intake of fresh fruits, cereals and vegetables, rich in vitamin C and E, folic acid and carotenoids to at least five servings a day
  • Eat fish, preferably fatty fish, at least once a week — or, include flaxseed in your daily diet
  • Reduce total calorie intake for weight reduction
  • Reduce salt and avoid alcohol use, more so if you have hypertension [high blood pressure].
Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360. 

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