A Healthy Heart, A Hearty Life
The World Heart Federation in Geneva, Switzerland, observes World Heart Day on the last Sunday of September. On this day, every effort is made to spread important information about the factors contributing to heart disease and the simple measures one can take to avoid it.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 17 million people die every year from heart disease alone. With the theme for 2012 being ‘One Heart, One Home, One World’, the focus has been on preventing cardiovascular disease in the complete household – mothers and children included. We, at the Isha blog would like to be a part of this initiative, and help in spreading awareness about Cardio Vascular Diseases (CVDs) in women.
The Threat of Cardio Vascular Disease
Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause for death among women in the world? That in India alone, CVDs affect more women than men? And in the United States, one in every four women die from heart related disorders? An even larger cause for concern is the fact that the numbers are on the rise – especially in areas where refined foods and sedentary lifestyles are prevalent.
At the current rate, it is estimated that by the year 2030, 23 million people are expected to die from CVDs annually, with women the highest among the victims. These statistics paint a picture that is contrary to common perception – that women’s hearts are less prone to illness when compared to men. Unawareness, neglect, high levels of stress and dietary imbalance that accompany a modern, urban lifestyle are perhaps the main reasons for the continued rise of CVDs in women.
High Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women
Be it Coronary Heart Disease, Broken Heart Syndrome, Coronary Microvascular Disease or Heart Failure, the risk factors contributing to these illnesses are pretty much always the same. Some of the top risk factors are the same among men and women – obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But there are a few factors that play a larger role in the development of heart disease in women:
- Stress and Depression: Studies have proved that mental stress affects a woman’s heart more than a man’s. A depressed woman would often find it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Smoking: is also known to be a greater risk factor for CVD in women than in men.
- Menopause: Lowered production of estrogen in a woman’s body after menopause is considered a significant factor for developing CVDs in the smaller blood vessels.
- Metabolic Syndrome: High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and fat around the abdomen form a combination that is known to lower metabolism and is more dangerous to women than men.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The good news for women is that the thread of CVDs in can be easily eliminated by making only a few dietary and lifestyle changes. It doesn’t even take too much effort; small changes can go a long way in helping you have a healthier, happier heart. One of the most important changes that doctors all over the world recommend today is to the diet. Reducing the intake of refined carbohydrates and fats, and switching to a more natural diet consisting of fruits and vegetables is generally advised.
Exercise is important too - brisk walking, running, swimming –for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week is advised. Staying physically active throughout the day as much as possible is beneficial. The more you use your heart, the better it will serve you. Regular checkups based on your age, lifestyle and family history will also go a long way in terms of prevention.
The Role of Yoga
Yoga does play a significant part in the prevention of heart attack and CVD. One of the most obvious benefits is the reduction of stress. Several research studies have proven that regular practice of yoga helps in decreasing both perceived stress and reactivity to stressful situations. Anger, fatigue and tension are also reduced, as are other high risk factor such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
Apart from the reduction of risk factors, yoga has a direct impact on the organ itself. The functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is regulated. When the ANS system of the heart is balanced, it is strengthened and protected from various CVDs. Interestingly, a study conducted on Isha Yoga practitioners and non-practitioners showed a greater balance of ANS in the former group of people.
On the occasion of World Heart Day, we wish you a happy, healthy and ‘hearty’ life!
Editor's Note: For more information on Yoga programs conducted by Isha Foundation, please visit http://isha.sadhguru.org/