World Heart Day 2019! Messages reiterating the need for healthy eating habits and lifestyle will flood all forms of mass communication. While an emphasis on cardiovascular fitness by way of exercise and controlled eating to preempt disease has been made for close to two decades now in view of the burgeoning global incidence of heart disease, the population still appears laidback in its approach to preventing this killer disease. Digging deep into the origins of the disease is important to understanding the preventive as well as the management aspects of this malady.
Fetal, infant, and childhood growth and development are all significant indicators of prospective heart disease in an individual. Cardiovascular disease is not necessarily an adult disease, but one that has its origins in fetal life. Low Birth Weight babies, pre-term infants, and small for gestational age babies all carry an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This is where a mother’s nutritional status is of paramount importance. On the other extreme – big babies (weighing more than 3.5 kg at birth) are also at risk of developing CVD later in life. Excessive weight gain as a child begins school and then enters adolescence is another reason that sets the seed for CVD in early adulthood. Stemming the problem at this stage is, hence, the first step towards ensuring a heart-healthy population.
The role of exercise at each stage of life cannot be emphasized enough. Pregnancy calls for a concerted effort to remain active. Cardiovascular fitness during this period will improve blood flow to the fetus while also enabling the mother gain the sustained benefits of increased flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health. In addition to keeping weight under control, brisk walking, jogging, swimming, indoor rowing, and stationary cycling enhance heart-lung capacity. Freehand exercises increase heart rate and aid in clearing up clogged arteries, thereby improving the functional capacity of the circulatory system. These are best suited for people of all ages, including the pre-adolescent and the senior citizen. Exercise patterns that cause a rush of blood, making you take deeper breaths are the ones that indicate a flow of heart-healthy hormones compounded by clear passageways that will keep your heart ticking longer and healthier. While we as medical professionals keep harping on following a heart healthy lifestyle as adults, let us also take a pledge to maintain the health of our children so that we can stem this menace called Heart Disease.