Ensuring the beauty of your heart

UNDERSTANDING how blood flow to the heart can be blocked is the first step towards preventing heart disease

We know that caring for the heart is not a top of mind concern for most Malaysian adults. But as one of the hardest working organs in the human body, the work that our hearts perform certainly deserves to be appreciated more. It is the “engine” of our body and like every other engine, requires us to maintain it through proper care. Every adult should understand how their heart works, how heart disease occurs and what they can do to prevent it.

The heart is actually a muscle, like the muscles on our legs and arms. The heart muscle has to be in a good condition to ensure blood is able to circulate in the body, providing us with oxygen and nutrients as well as carrying away waste. ‘Good condition’ means that the organ does not have an excessive accumulation of fat – this will lower its muscle flexibility and contractions for smooth blood flow. Another important condition is to ensure that there are no cholesterol plaques building up in the organ’s blood vessel. Cholesterol plaques can block blood flow in arteries, making the process of blood flow less efficient. ,

The heart is divided into two pumps that work in tandem. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. The left side of the heart receives the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body.

With the onset of heart disease, our hearts can become impaired and do not work properly. Heart disease can result from unmodifiable factors such as age and gender and modifiable factors such as physical activity, diet and smoking. Even if your risk of developing heart disease is higher because of unmodifiable factors, you can still manage this through modifiable factors – by getting enough daily physical activity, eating a balanced diet and quitting smoking

Coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to the muscles of the heart. Over time, fatty deposits called plaque can build up in the walls of the coronary arteries. If the plaque becomes unstable and ruptures, the clotting process, called thrombosis, starts inside the artery. This can lead to a reduced blood supply to the heart muscle, and muscle tissue can start to become damaged. If the clot completely blocks the coronary artery, all muscle tissue below the blockage can die.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. Without oxygenated blood, the heart muscle can be damaged. A stroke is a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. A stroke happens when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts.

There are many things we can do to ensure our heart health– the truth is that Malaysians need to take care of their heart health now instead of much later in life.

We know that Malaysians are getting heart disease at a younger age and that one out of two Malaysians suffer from high cholesterol. High cholesterol levels are a primary risk factor in the development of heart disease. Unhealthy fats such as trans and saturated fats is present in the majority of foods that we eat. But there are ways in which we can still take charge of our heart health.

A brisk walk daily can cut the risk of heart disease symptoms such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high blood cholesterol, together with eating a balanced diet and annual medical check-ups. Sitting down for extended periods, such as in the office, may result in poor blood circulation and other issues such as organ damage and muscle degeneration. Try to alternate between sitting and standing every hour. One way to reduce the risk of heart disease is to manage your cholesterol levels by adding plant sterols to your diet. Plant sterols can also be found in grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

However you may have to eat very large amounts of these items to have an effect on your cholesterol. For example, in order to get 1.2g of plant sterols daily to effectively reduce cholesterol, you will need to eat 255 tomatoes or 126 carrots! The easier way to get the sufficient plant sterols needed to lower your cholesterol level is to drink a low fat milk enriched with added plant sterols like Nestlé Omega Plus milk. Nestlé Omega Plus is the only milk that has Acticol®, plant sterols that help lower cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. In fact, just 2 servings of Nestlé Omega Plus each day has been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol levels.

Taking care of our hearts should be a priority for every adult, and a healthy heart is a beautiful heart indeed.