World Heart Day: History, Facts And Heart Healthy Diet

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Historically speaking, heart diseases are as old as the mummies themselves. In fact, the journey of heart ailments and the development of modern medicines can be used to gauge the progress of science. Yes, at some point people believed that the heart housed our feelings, this belief was discarded at one point but it has returned with a vengeance and is proving, that maybe the heart does house emotions. We have discussed emotions, heart and brain in a previous post.

World Heart Day: 29th Sept

However, one should also remember that heart ailments are among the top chronic diseases in the world, claiming millions of lives annually, of which India amounts to a fair share of heart related deaths. In this piece we will be discussing the history of the discovery and identification of heart diseases, the world heart day themes, why is world heart day celebrated in the first place, and heart healthy diets.

History of the Discovery of Heart Diseases1:

In 2009, researchers discovered something surprising in Egyptian mummies. Further probes proved that heart disease was one of the main causes of the death for 9 out 16 mummies that were studied. It has led many to a conjecture that maybe the Egyptian royalty regularly feasted on fatty food, leading to such diseases. However, it has also sparred a debate about the contribution of modern lifestyle into the development of heart diseases. In fact, a recent study has gone as far as to claim that bad cholesterol has nothing to do with heart diseases. We have discussed the same in great detail in a separate post, named Cholesterol and Heart Disease: Study Shows No Connection.

It is believed that ancient Egyptian civilisation, along with the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Indians were aware of heart diseases. In fact, it is believed that the ancient Greeks used foxglove as a treatment for heart related ailments. It is still unknown, whether knowledge of this disease and its cure was lost in time and translation or became a part of old wives tales, taking a mythical form. However, the modern understanding of human heart ailments has been credited to Leonardo Da Vinci, who started studying coronary arteries. Following his work, William Harvey, the royal physician to King Charles I, was the first to assert that the heart was the organ responsible for the flow of blood in the body.

Friedrich Hoffmann took the study further and discovered that coronary artery disease was caused because of reduced or restricted blood flow in the coronary arteries.

Similarly, Angina or chest tightness had puzzled physicians for eons, no one knew whether angina was a disease or a symptom. In the 1700s William Heberden postulated that maybe this pain has something to do with the flow of blood in the coronary arteries. In late 19th century or early 20th century, William Osler from Johns Hopkins was the first to put the theory forward that maybe Angina was only a syndrome. However, in 1912, cardiologist James Herrick, after a rigorous study concluded that angina could be caused because of narrowed coronary arteries, which restricts blood flow.

By the early 20th century, physicians had recognised heart disease as a growing concern but had no means to detect it at an early stage, which could probably help with managing the disease or containing its progress. This left patients suffering from heart diseases with little to no hope of recovery. It is believed that Portuguese Egas Moniz and German Werner Frossman were the pioneers in discovering ways to detect heart diseases. Heart Catheterization is used as an effective way to detect heart diseases to this day. However, a more sophisticated and accurate method of detecting heart diseases was developed by a pediatric cardiologist, F. Mason Sones in 1958.

By 1950’s researchers were not just discovering types of heart diseases, they were also looking at the causes of heart diseases. Over a period of times, researchers started asserting that heart diseases had a lot to do with unhealthy diet, urging people to watch their diets.

By the 1980s surgeries like bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty were already popular and in use. The decade also saw the introduction of stents to prop open heart arteries.

Over the years, more and more accurate treatment plans are being developed for heart diseases, they are still heavily studied and there is much we need to know yet.

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Why World Heart Day is Celebrated?

The World Heart Federation has been responsible for the organization of World Heart Days. The first World Heart Day was observed on September 26, 1999. On this day participating countries and NGOs working in them plan activities to spread more awareness about heart diseases, their causes, symptoms and how can one lead a heart healthy life.

  • World Heart Day Facts:

World Heart Day has been organized annually with the aim of making people aware of the global heart disease crisis. Several people to this day do not know how to recognise the symptoms of a heart disease. World Heart Day is organized to spread relevant knowledge about heart diseases, which in turn can help nullify myths around heart diseases. Here are a few World Heart Day facts:

  1. Nearly 17 million people die globally of heart disease, and most don’t possess relevant information about the disease in the first place.
  2. The World Heart Federation started with World Heart Day, to spread knowledge about Heart Diseases.
  3. The first World Heart Day was celebrated on September 26, 1999.
  4. For the next few years, World Heart Day was celebrated on the last Sunday of September.
  5. However, since 2013, World Heart is celebrated unilaterally on September 29, every year.
  6. Each Heart Day is celebrated along a certain fixed theme which helps spreading knowledge in a much easier way as promoters and organizers have to work around a very focused topic.
  • World Heart Day Theme:

Every year the World Heart Federation introduces a particular theme for promoting knowledge on World Heart Day. The theme for 2018 is, “My Heart, Your Heart”.

This year the federation seeks to take a more collaborative approach to heart care, the theme resonates the same as it asks the question “how can I help my heart and your heart?”

This theme has been introduced by keeping healthcare professionals in mind. How can a collaboration between the physician and the patient help both take care of their hearts? This could kick in a new approach to patient-doctor relationship where both are setting heart healthy targets and trying to achieve them in order to help the other.

But we also believe that this theme can be taken one step further, for one, you can start with the question of what can you do for your heart as well as the hearts of the ones you love or care about. This could be turned into a community activity where each member contributes to reaching the group and individual target of adopting a heart friendly lifestyle and taking care of each other’s hearts.

Heart Healthy Diet:

There are several food items out there which can help keep your heart healthy. While we can give you a planned diet plan, we also believe that each individual has unique tastes and approaches to their own diets, so we decided, we will mention the names of the healthy foods and how they help and leave you to pick what suits your taste palette:

1. Soluble Fibre:

You heard us, while soluble fibre helps with digestion, it also has several benefits as far as heart health is concerned. Some common soluble fibres easily available in the market are:

  • Flaxseed (Teesi in Hindi)
  • Oats
  • Berries
  • Beans

2. Fruits and Vegetables:

Yes, we have all hated our greens, preferring the better tasting junk foods, however, it is important to remember that fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals. They are also comparatively easy to digest, some fibrous fruits help with the process of digestion. However, it is important to remember that not just your greens, but all other coloured fruits and vegetables are just as healthy, this provides you with more options for your week. Some fruits and vegetables for your reference are:

  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion

3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids:

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential fatty acids which the human body is not able to produce on its own, so it needs to acquire it from outside. Omega 3 fatty acids help increase the levels of good cholesterol while regulating the levels of bad cholesterol. Here are a few good sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Tuna
  • Chia Seeds
  • Salmon
  • Herring

Moderate amounts of dark chocolate, beer, and wine are also good for the heart. So, we are not asking you to ditch all good tasting things in life, we are only suggesting moderation. We understand that it is really difficult to avoid popular foods and like we have mentioned elsewhere, a FAD diet is never healthy. What we suggest is moderation, 5-6 days of heart healthy diet for a day of indulging yourself, however, we would ask you to not over-indulge yourself. In fact, you can still make conscious decisions like opting for fresh baked goods than packed baked cakes, avoiding packaged foods, avoiding poultry skin, and so on. We hope you have a heart healthy year ahead.

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1.
Coronary Heart Disease: From Mummies to 21st Century. ncbi. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5501035/.

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