So often we go to bed wishing we had an extra hour to spend quality time with our children, complete that unfinished assignment, or just finish another chapter of the book that’s lying on the bedside table. What if you found out that there was a way to have that extra hour you’ve been wishing for?

It sounds unreal, but it is possible. It all comes down to heart health! Confused? Let’s understand this better. Changing lifestyles – longer working hours, higher levels of stress, unhealthy eating, less exercise, etc. is taking a toll on people’s health, specifically heart health. Poor health not only impacts the number of years we live, but also the quality of our lives. We think that falling mortality rates mean that diseases are being cured so people are living longer lives, but we don’t realize that the quality of their lives has been impacted. Just living longer, but not being able to do the things we love, or spending quality time with the people we love, has little meaning. To truly understand the numbers of years of life that can be lived well, we have to account for the time we live without illness and disease. A metric which helps understand this, is Disability Adjusted Life years (DALYs), simply put, it adjusts your total life years with the number of years impacted by sickness.

One of the critical factors affecting DALYs is Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs). According to a study conducted in 2016, CVDs contributed to 28.1% of the total deaths and 14.1% of the total DALYs in India. One DALY represents the loss of the equivalent of year of full health. So better heart health is important to live a better-quality life. Instead of waiting till we are affected by heart diseases, we must be proactive about taking care of our hearts. Taking early care can go a long way in ensuring we live longer and without the burden of disease. Simple lifestyle changes can help give you that extra hour for all the pending items on your to-do list.

Here are a few easy ways to improve our heart health and the quality of our lives. Start by taking more breaks for mindfulness during the workday, this will help de-stress and decompress. Reduce the amount of time spent stooping over a work desk or lounging on the couch – try more indoor walking or some quick chair exercises. When it comes to our diets, it’s not just about the number of calories we consume but eating the right nourishing foods. For example, just reducing oil intake is not enough to be healthy. Choose the right cooking oil, try blended oils instead of single seed oils, since they can give you the right balance of mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids required for complete nutrition. Finally, ensure regular heart check-ups to identify any problems earlier.

These simple steps can help you live longer and without illness. So, invest in your heart health now, and get that extra quality hour to spend on all the things you love.

The article has been authored by Minal Shah, Senior nutrition therapist, Fortis hospital, Mulund.