Winter Heart Health: Doctors Urge People to Reduce Salt and Sugar Intake
Health experts have urged people to reduce salt and sugar intake as a preventive measure against heart attacks, especially during the cold winter months. They said low temperatures lead to the constriction of arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Renowned health expert and Medical Superintendent of Khyber Hospital, Dr Showkat Shah, while speaking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said that narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the heart, raising the risk of heart attacks, especially for those with a history of heart-related issues.
He highlighted the prevalence of high sodium content in Kashmiri traditional ‘Nun Chai’ (salt tea) and bread, which elevates blood pressure and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, brain haemorrhage, and other health problems.
“Sedentary lifestyles, combined with unhealthy dietary choices like junk and fried foods, contribute to obesity, a significant factor in heart disease due to increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels,” he said, adding, “Salt intake must be just 1/4th and sugar must be avoided. The patients having underlying heart issues must visit doctors on time and follow all guidelines.”
To minimise the risk of heart attacks or strokes, Dr Shah advised people to stay warm, limit exposure to chilly weather, control diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and refrain from smoking. He recommended wearing layered clothing, particularly covering the head and neck, and consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Exercise indoors during cold weather, avoid fatty foods, and quit smoking to reduce the risk of heart-related issues, he advised.
Prominent cardiologist Dr A G Ahanger proposed the 5S policy: reducing SALT and SUGAR intake, avoiding SEDENTARY lifestyles, managing STRESS, and quitting SMOKING. These guidelines, he stressed, are crucial for heart health.
Another cardiologist from GMC Srinagar said there is an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes during winter due to factors like decreased body temperature, higher blood pressure, less physical activity, and poor diet.
Common heart attack symptoms, he said, include chest pain, discomfort spreading to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, cold sweats, fatigue, heartburn, lightheadedness, nausea, and shortness of breath.
The doctor advised people to exercise in suitable temperatures, dress warmly with layers, gloves, and socks when going outside, maintain a healthy lifestyle, manage stress, and adhere to prescribed medications for blood pressure and diabetes control.
He also recommended proper hydration, good hygiene, and getting flu shots, if possible, for overall healthand well-being.
Here are some tips for staying heart-healthy during the winter:
- Reduce your salt intake. Salt can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
- Limit your sugar intake. Sugar can lead to weight gain, which is another risk factor for heart disease. Aim to consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are low in calories and saturated fat, and they are high in nutrients that are good for your heart.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Exercise helps to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.
- Stay warm. Low temperatures can cause your blood pressure to rise. Dress warmly in layers, and avoid spending too much time outdoors in cold weather.
- Manage stress. Stress can increase your risk of heart disease. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
If you have any underlying heart conditions, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. This may include taking medications, making lifestyle changes, or both.
By following these tips, you can help to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke during the winter months.