Caption: Atherosclerosis (or a narrowing of the arteries due to build-up of fat and cholesterol) puts you at greater risk of developing heart disease and/or stroke. Although this condition
was previously thought to afflict mostly the elderly, it is now seen increasingly in young adults. Dr Tan Hong Chang, a Consultant at the Department of Endocrinology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, shares tips on how to have a healthy heart in your later years. (iStock photo)
Studies have found that Asians, including Singaporeans, have a higher proportion of body fat (including visceral fat) compared with Caucasians of the same age, gender, and body mass index (BMI). This would be one of the explanations for the greater risk for cardiovascular and diabetes mellitus in Asians at relatively low BMI levels.
Related article: How to effectively reduce visceral fat (belly fat)
BMI and risk of heart disease
It is important to note that the BMI cut-off point for health concerns in Asians is lower at 23 kg/m2 than the international and WHO (World Health Organisation) cut-off at 25 kg/m2.
Similarly, the waist circumference cut-off for Asians is lower at 90cm for men and 80cm for women.
A wide range of investigations is available to identify atherosclerosis but further screening would depend on the presence of symptoms and the global assessment of risk factors.
Related article: Heart murmur – When is it harmless and when is it serious
7 Tips for a healthy heart
Stick to a healthy diet: This means eating a well-balanced meal with daily servings of fruits and vegetables as well as portions of fish. Avoid unhealthy food choices such as fast food, as this is high in fat and cholesterol. Sweetened drinks like colas are also unhealthy because of their high sugar content.
Exercise: Work out for 20-30 minutes a day. If you're short of time, try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, such as climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift.
Keep your blood pressure low: Periodic measurement for high blood pressure for all adults aged 18 years or older is recommended. It should be repeated every two years or more frequently depending on the initial blood pressure or the presence of other risk factors. A normal blood pressure is < 130/80 mmHg.
Monitor your cholesterol levels: Get screened regularly and keep the level within normal range with heart-friendly food and exercise.
Maintain a healthy weight: If you are overweight or obese, visceral fat may be present in and around your body tissues. So keep to an optimum weight and BMI.
Don't smoke: Keep yourself tobacco-free and you will drastically reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Limit alcohol consumption: Don't drink more than one to two glasses a day.
For young adults, it is important to understand that youth does not equate to good health.
Dr Tan advised, "If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, it will eventually catch up with your health. So watch out and consult a doctor to help you stick to your lifestyle goals."
Related article: Top 10 stroke prevention tips, recommended by our specialist
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