Healthy Heart - Institute for Sport Research

Licinda Pienaar

Manager of the Biokinetics Division at the Institute for Sport Research University of Pretoria

According to the World health organization ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. There are several factors which increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Modifiable risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, dyslipidemia, impaired fasting glucose, obesity and living a sedentary lifestyle. Non modifiable risk factors include family history, age and gender. Ways of adopting a healthy lifestyle to ensure a healthy heart include smoking cessation, following a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, ensuring regular health screenings and exercising regularly.

Don’t smoke or use tobacco
Cigarette smoking is a significant public health problem that influences health and disability. Tobacco smoking is said to cause serious health problems; including the development of atherosclerotic disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and sudden cardiac death. Nicotine in cigarette smoke narrows your blood vessels resulting in a higher resting heart rate and blood pressure. The risk of heart disease drops dramatically when one quits the use of tobacco.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
Make an appointment with a Dietician close to you. Dieticians are specialists in developing individualized healthy meal plans and assisting in starting to make healthy lifestyle changes. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and low-fat sources of protein, can help protect your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. Saturated food products and trans-fat can raise blood cholesterol levels therefore increasing the risk of coronary artery disease. Polyunsaturated fats (e.g. Omega-3 fatty acids) is known to lower blood pressure and protect the heart against heart disease. Alcohol should be used in moderation. The recommended daily allowance is less than two drinks for men and one a day for women.
Exercise
Exercise has physical, metabolic, psychological and emotional benefits. Physical activity reduces the incidence of stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancers, osteoporosis, depression and obesity. Significant health benefits can be obtained by boosting daily activity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends AT LEAST 30 minutes of light to moderate activity on most days of the week. Come into contact with a Biokineticist to assist with individualized exercise programs for various health related conditions and lifestyle modification (see Find a Biokineticist for a list of Biokinetics practices in your area).
Maintain a healthy weight
An increase in body weight increases the risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of the lean mass and fat mass components. It is calculated as weight in kilograms (kg) divided by height in meters (m) squared. A normal BMI is considered 18.5-24.9. BMI can be improved through regular exercise and a controlled healthy eating plan. Waist circumference measures abdominal fat and is a helpful tool to measure stress on the heart. Men are considered overweight if their waist circumference is greater than 102 cm. Women’s waist circumference should be less than 88 cm.
Get regular health screenings
High blood pressure and cholesterol don’t always present themselves with symptoms therefore it is important to have regular screenings. Regular exercise and healthy eating habits facilitate with blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes regularity.
  • Blood pressure
    Blood pressure is measured to screen for hypertension and cardiovascular risk assessment. High blood pressure (hypertension) places great stress on the heart. The pressure exerted on the arterial walls during the contraction of the left ventricle is known as systolic blood pressure (SBP). A SBP of ≤120 mm Hg at rest is considered normal. Values ≥140 mm Hg is considered hypertensive. The pressure exerted on the arterial walls during the resting phase of ventricular beats is known as diastolic blood pressure (DBP). Values of ≤80 mm Hg at rest are considered normal, whereas values ≥90 mm Hg are considered hypertensive.
  • Cholesterol
    Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance in the blood. Dyslipidemia is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease. A normal fasting total cholesterol is less than 5.2 mmol/l.
  • Diabetes
    Glucose is a simple sugar found in certain foods. The measuring of blood glucose levels is an important test in diabetes. A normal fasting glucose is < 5.6 mmol/l.

It is vital to take control of your health to ensure a healthy heart. Being screened and assessed by a biokineticist is an important step in improving your quality of life. A biokineticist will address cardiac risk factors through individualized scientific assessments and exercise prescriptions.

REFERENCES

American College of Sports Medicine. (2006). ACSM's certification review (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD.: Lippcott Williams & Wilkens

Braveman, D.L. 2011. Cardiac rehabilitation. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 90(7):599-611

Chiuve, S.E., McCullough, M,L., Sacks, F.M. and Rimm, E.B. 2006. Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men. Circulation, 114: 160-167

Howard, G., Wagenknecht, L.E., Burke, G.L., Diez-Roux, A., Evans, G.W., McGovern, P., Nieto, J. and Tell, G.S. 1998. Cigarette smoking and progression of atherosclerosis: The Atherosclerosis risk communities (ARIC) study. JAMA, 279(2): 119-124.

Kaloki, M.S. 2013. The impact of tobacco use on health and socia-economic development in africa: a status report. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 25, 2013

McBride, P.E. 1992. The health consequences of smoking. Cardiovascular diseases. Med. Clin. North Am. 76:333-353

Mendonca, G.V., Pereira, F.D. and Fernhall, B. 2011. Effects of cigarette smoking on cardiac autonomic function during dynamic exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(9): 879-886

Perloff, D., Grim, C., Frohlich, E.D., Hill, M., McDonald, M. and Morgenstern, B.Z. 1993. Human blood pressure determination by sphygmomanometry. Circulation, 88() 2460-2470.

Ramkissoon, I. and Chambers, R.D. 2008. Effects of chronic and acute smoking on AMLRs in older and younger listeners. International Journal of Audiology, 47(12): 715-723

Zhu, B., and Parmley, W. 1995. Hemodynamic and vascular effects of active and passive smoking. American heart journal, 130:1270-1275

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