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Consider cardio in your diet

We exercise to look better in our Instagram pictures. The focus is on flat abs and toned arms, but do we pay equal attention to our heart?

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Eat better, drink less, exercise more and sleep enough. This common advice for heart health is often ignored. Healthy habits, physical activity and regular check-ups with your GP will help to control your blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and many other diseases.
“It is important to eat a well balanced diet with a variety of foods at each meal,” says Zeina Younes, a 32-year-old Clinical Diabetes Dietitian Specialist at the Dubai Diabetes Centre, Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
“Developing or maintaining healthy lifestyle habits by following a proper eating plan, exercising regularly and staying at a healthy weight can aid in diabetes management and in turn, lower the risk of heart disease.”

What is heart disease?
Heart disease is also known as cardiovascular disease or CVD, which is a very serious health condition that keeps the heart or blood vessels from working properly. When the heart and blood vessels are working at their best, blood flows easily and is circulated around the body freely.
If there is a clog in the blood vessels or if the heart is not pumping blood properly, it prevents blood from being delivered to many important parts of the body and can cause serious illness or even death. When a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain gets blocked or bursts, blood can’t deliver oxygen to part of the brain and the brain starts to die and as a result people can have a heart attack or a stroke.
Without the right medical attention, a stroke can cause major damage to the brain. These patients may have problems speaking, seeing or moving normally for a short time or for the rest of their lives and some can even die from a stroke.
People most likely to have a stroke are older adults, who don’t eat a healthy diet, are not physically active, are overweight or obese, or have other medical problems that may lead to heart disease. People can have a stroke at any age.

Fighting fit
“My family has a history of diabetes, heart disease and cancer so I exercise quite a lot to avoid these problems in the future,” says 31-year-old Brazilian, Marcos Ratinho, a Jiu-Jitsu Head Coach at the Ministry of Interior Abu Dhabi. As a Jiu-Jitsu Coach and professional fighter he wakes up early, follows a strict diet with a lot of nutrients, sleeps on time and has a healthy social life.
“Being heart and health conscious is not tough, I surround myself with people that have a similar focus in life.,” says Marcos. “It makes you keep a healthy lifestyle without feeling like you’re sacrificing the good things.”

Diabetes can affect your heart health
Millions of people don’t know that diabetes can affect their heart health. Over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and puts you at risk for heart disease. Younes says diabetes mellitus is a major global health problem that is increasing worldwide, reaching pandemic proportions. Patients with diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, are at a greater risk of developing heart disease.
The reason why diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease is because high levels of blood glucose over time can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels. Moreover, patients with diabetes are more likely to have risk factors that increase their chances of having heart disease or stroke, such as high blood pressure, and high levels of cholesterol.
“Managing blood glucose levels, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol can help patients with diabetes to protect their heart and overall health,” advises Zeina. “Being overweight or obese also affects patients’ ability to manage their diabetes as well as increase their risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.”