Dr. Shahid's heart clinic

How does your heart work?

The heart has four chambers (two upper atria, and two lower ventricles) and the valves connecting these chambers keep the blood flowing around the body. The heart has a natural pacemaker which sends out electrical impulses. These travel through the heart and cause the four chambers to pump in a synchronised manner resulting in your heart rhythm. A healthy adult resting heart rate is usually between 60 to 100 bpm. Your heart rate increases as you engage in physical activity and lowers when you sleep.


How to make your heart work better:


1.      Try to relax

Stress brings your heart rate up and over time can put strain on your heart. Working out the best way to relax and remembering to do this regularly will really help. Whether it’s curling up with a book, or a warm bath before bed, find a couple of things that help you relax after a tough day. Each little relaxation session will add up to benefit your heart in the long run.


2.      Socialise

Spending quality time with friends and loved ones is a key to reducing stress and therefore helping your heart by keeping your blood pressure down. Keeping up with people keeps you active and busy, and sharing your experiences and concerns will help you relax. Sometimes letting off steam with a group of friends is the best way to deal with a tense day at work.


3.      Drink less

Frequently drinking more than the recommended number of alcohol units can be damaging to most parts of your body, but especially your heart. Over time your blood pressure will increase, adding extra strain. Too much alcohol can also damage your heart muscles and disrupt the normal electrical activity of your heart resulting in an abnormal heart rhythm. There is evidence to suggest, however, that drinking in moderation can be beneficial to the heart through increasing ‘good’ cholesterol. Red wine, for example, contains antioxidants which can be beneficial, as long as you’re not regularly drinking more than one small glass a day.


4.      Increase exercise

You can help your heart by keeping it healthy through regular exercise. Take a look at your current exercise regime and think up a couple of small ways to increase it. Even a little more will help a great deal over time. Cardio is the best way to help your heart, so consider going for a run or taking up a dance class.


5.      Shed the pounds

Losing weight can be an excellent way to help you heart. Decreasing body fat will reduce the amount of fat which could clog your arteries and cause a heart attack. Boosting your heart function and improving your metabolism are other benefits you can reap from losing weight. You succeed in lowering your blood pressure and reducing the strain on your heart just by losing weight.


The best foods for a healthy heart:


1.      Supplements

Boosting particular nutrients in your diet can be a huge help for your heart. The fatty acids from omega oils, either from a meal featuring fish or a fish oil supplement, are recommended. Garlic is an excellent heart supplement because it contains allicin, which relaxes blood vessels and helps blood flow, taking the strain off your heart. Boosting your level of Vitamin D will help reduce your risk of heart disease as well as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.


2.      Fruit and nuts

Fruit and nuts are great sources of protein and fibre. Nuts can improve the lining of your arteries and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, which can be a leading cause of heart disease. Nuts contain plant sterols, Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids which all help your heart by respectively lowering cholesterol, reducing plaque in arteries and keeping healthy heart rhythms. Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which will help keep your heart healthy. Always opt for fresh whole fruit when you can rather than the preserved or canned variety.

Always remember, it’s better not to snack between meals. If you are eating nuts, try to use them as a replacement for a fattier snack option, rather than in addition to.


3.      Flax-seeds

Flax-seeds are a fantastic plant food which will keep your heart strong and healthy. They can help reduce your risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They contain a potent mix of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, plant estrogen and antioxidants. They’re also a great source of fibre. They can help your cardiovascular system through normalising heart rhythms, lower blood pressure and keep your arteries healthy.


4.      Red wine

Moderate and infrequent amounts of red wine can be beneficial for the heart. Red wine contains antioxidants which increase ‘good’ cholesterol which can protect against artery damage. Antioxidants such as flavonoids or polyphenol can be great for the heart. Polyphenol is a type of antioxidant found in red wine and the polyphenol called resveratrol is the key to why red wine can be beneficial. It helps prevent blood clots, increases the body’s ability to process insulin and reduces the risk of heart inflammation. So an occasional small glass of red wine can be good for you!


By Dr. Hina Shahid