Heart Health

Heart is a hollow muscular organ and is about the size of the individual’s fist. The primary function of the heart is pump blood that reaches all the organs of the body through veins and nerves. The heart and blood vessels are collectively known as cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is a term used to describe the diseases of heart and blood vessels. Some of common CVD include atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, hypertension etc.

Risk factors of CVD

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Diet (Excess intake of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Age
  • Family history

Nutrition plays an important role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases by managing some of the risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, excess intake of saturated fats.

Nutrients that are associated with heart health.

  1. Fats: Although some fats such saturated and trans fats are associated increased risk of CVD, good fats such as PUFA and MUFA have beneficial properties. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to have anti-atherogenic effects, they prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in blood serum and improve the lipid profile and increase HDL levels. Fish, nuts and oilseeds are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
  2. Fiber: intake of fiber is beneficial in decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure. Dietary fiber affects the lipid digestion and absorption and helps reduce LDL. Whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber.
  3. Vitamin C: It is a potent antioxidant amd prevents the oxidative damage to tissues that may lead to coronary heart disese. It helps reduce cholesterol.
  4. Sodium: Sodium should be restricted to 2000 mg/d in daily diet. Excess sodium intake can lead to an increase in blood pressure.


Hypertension is one of the common cardiovascular disease. It is described as blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg. The normal blood pressure range is 120/80 mmHg. The risk factors for hypertension include obesity, diabetes, family history, sedentary lifestyle, high intake of sodium and stress. Some of the symptoms associated include headache, dizziness, impaired vision, failing memory, shortness of breath, unexplained tiredness etc.

DASH diet - DASH stands for dietary approach to stop hypertension. Folowing a DASH diet may help reduce blood pressure. It includes:

  • High amounts of fruits and vegetable
  • Inclusion of fish
  • Inclusion of low fat milk
  • Reducing fat intake
  • Reducing sodium

Exercise and heart health

Physical activity is very beneficial in maintaining heart health as it enhances circulatory system.  Exercise helps increase HDL levels and reduces cholesterol. Aerobic exercise helps increase heart size and strength. Performing exercise helps reduce total and abdominal fat. Regular physical exercise thus helps reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases.