February 5, 2023

Heart matters | 6 steps to a cardio-friendly healthy lifestyle, the Mayo Clinic way

Care for your heart, it's the only one you have.

Care for your heart, it’s the only one you have.&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Cardiovascular diseases or CVD describe the several conditions affecting the heart, the blood vessels that nourish the heart (the coronary arteries), and the arteries that distribute blood to the brain, legs, and everywhere in-between. 

  • The heart is the pumping station of the body, and every cell in your body is dependent upon this setup. Only if the heart functions at peak efficiency can every cell in the body get its supply of oxygen, nutrients and have its wastes cleaned.

  • Know what you can do to maintain a healthy and ticking heart so that CVD never visits you.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) (including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year.”

Heart disease may be the No. 1 killer (especially of women) — but six basic lifestyle choices can help you prevent it, control it, or even reverse your risk for heart attack and stroke. But we are not just talking of primordial prevention of heart disease i.e. care from the stat so you never run the risk of heart disease. We are also focussing on the fact that there may be others who have already experienced a heart attack, stroke or another form of heart disease.

That is why we bring you steps vetted by the Mayo Clinic so that precautionary steps can prevent another life-threatening cardiac event, halt the progression of heart disease and prevent early death.

“Making healthy lifestyle changes can do a lot to help prevent or slow the progression of heart disease,” says Sharonne N. Hayes, M.D., founder of the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Depending on your unique needs, you may need strategies to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, a personalised exercise prescription, a healthy-eating plan, advice about how to quit smoking, and stress management techniques.”

Six Steps to a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle:

  1. Upgrade Your Nutrition: Let us share a hack with you here. To achieve a healthy and balanced food intake, fill at least two-thirds of your plate with fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, one-third or less with lean protein — such as skinless poultry, fish or plant proteins, and use low-fat or no-fat dairy. Once in a while cheat meal or binge on rare occasions after a few weeks is okay, but otherwise, you should have a lifelong approach of fitting the healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, proteins and other nutrients you need into your diet. At the same time, either avoid or lessen the intake of added sugars, highly processed carbs, saturated fats, full-fat dairy, and trans fats in fast foods, snacks and baked goods. The foods we advise you to avoid are the ones that give rise to chronic inflammation within blood vessels, a first step to developing cardiovascular disease. You need not give up meat altogether while choosing more plant-based foods. “Let the vegetables be the stars of your meal and meats be the supporting characters,” says Dr Sharonne N Hayes (MD) founder of the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Eat a lot of colours, that’s nature’s way of ensuring you get a variety of vitamins.
  2. Movement and burning calories are everything: If you want to lower the risk of heart disease and speed your recovery from a heart attack or stroke – get moving and exercising – unless the doctor has warned you not to. Heart-damaging conditions such as elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure set in once you have embraced a sedentary lifestyle, sitting glued to your digital devices, whether for work or play. “If you don’t like to exercise there are some ways to increase the chance that you will get some physical activity regularly,” says Dr Warren G Thompson, (MD), a Mayo Clinic expert in preventive medicine. Ensure At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking at a brisk pace, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. Even as little as 10 minutes per day of exercise has been shown to lower your risk of death over a 9- to 12-year period!
  3. Kick out stress and be free: We live in an era when stress comes in various forms. The human brain has not yet evolved for handling the complexities of modern-era life (especially urban lifestyles). Women’s heart health suffers when chronic stress as work-life balance is lost and duties pile on. That has left women with the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) raised by 21 per cent. Learn meditation, learn to take a stand, get family members to contribute to household work. Get more physical activity, sleep seven to eight hours nightly, eat a noninflammatory diet, meditate or do breathing exercises once a day, stay in contact with friends and family and act generously toward others.
  4. Sleep well: Know your body and mind’s chronotype, are you an early morning lark or a nighttime owl? Broken sleep schedules can leave you exposed to an increased risk for heart-damaging obesity, diabetes and depression, as well as heart attack and stroke. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea or OSA – a condition that causes snoring, stopping breathing during sleep and gasping for air – not only does it leave you too fatigued at daytime to do any meaningful work, it can also be life-threatening. When people stop breathing during sleep, their blood oxygen levels drop. Over time that puts stress on their heart and lungs. Listen to your family members when they say that you snore and snort or stop breathing while you’re asleep, or if you feel exhausted every morning. Ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep disorder centre for evaluation. Most often, weight loss, giving up from alcohol, use of a continuous positive airway pressure device or other appliance, like the adaptive servo-ventilation system, and medications help relieve OSA.
  5. Quit Smoking (even weed is smoking): Why would you want to burn your lungs and stuff the thousands of carcinogenic chemicals that cigarette tobacco smoke contains? Smoking can double or quadruple your risk of heart disease and stroke — and for women, it is particularly risky. Women who smoke have a 25 per cent higher risk of developing heart disease compared to men who smoke. Smoking marijuana or Cannabinoids (the psychoactive part of marijuana) pump up your resting heart rate, dilate blood vessels and make the heart pump harder, increasing the risk of having a heart attack in the hour after smoking marijuana. Get professional help from your doctor and quit smoking TODAY AND NOW.
  6. Get screened for heart disease regularly: Prevention is the best approach when it comes to tackling CVD. Thankfully maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting a few periodic tests will keep you on track. The numbers you want to keep track of are your blood pressure, lipids (total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides) and blood glucose.

    What range should your results desirably be in?

    Blood pressure: Less than 120/80 mmHg 

    Fasting Glucose Level: Less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)  


    HDL: Above 60 mg/dLin women; above 50 mg/dL for men 

    LDL cholesterol: Below 100mg/dL; (if you have coronary artery disease (CAD): below 70 mg/dL

    Triglycerides: Below 150 mg/dL


Make all the desirable lifestyle changes, live the heart-healthy way, but also stay connected to your health care team. Lifestyle steps to improve heart health — while extremely beneficial — are sometimes are not enough and it is better to have experts guiding you, caring for you.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.