Multiple surveys have shown that 74% of urban India is overweight. And Indians have a genetic tendency towards heart disease. Chances are that if you’re an Indian, over 30 years of age, and have even a slight belly, you’re at a risk for heart disease. You may or may not have it yet, but you need to follow this advice. If you have heart disease, these actions will help you manage it better. If you don’t have it, this will help you reduce your risk.

Whenever you think of a heart healthy diet, you think of low fat, low salt food. That is partly true, since it doesn’t give you the whole picture. To be heart healthy, you don’t need to eat bland par-boiled vegetables. Here’s what you really need:

Eat less sugar & maida: You may not have diabetes, but multiple researches are showing a correlation between consumption of simple carbohydrates (like sugar, maida) and heart disease. Eating sugar is commonly linked to weight gain and cavities. But did you know sugar also  delivers “empty calories” — calories unaccompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Table sugar is not the only source of sugar. You can also be consuming sugar in the form of sodas, energy drinks, cookies, cakes, pastries, and similar treats; fruit drinks; ice cream, frozen yogurt and ready-to-eat cereals.

Eat more fibre: You need more fibre. There are two types of fibre- soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre helps you improve heart health, by cleaning your arteries. Insoluble fibre helps you improve digestion. Soluble fibre is found in pulses, oats and many other food products. Get plenty of soluble fibre in your diet, daily.

Be wary of transfats: When you eat foods that contain transfats, they simply go and attach themselves to the walls of your arteries, clogging them and research is showing a strong correlation between transfat consumption and heart disease. How to avoid transfat in your diet: Whenever you buy a product, simply look at the nutrition label. If it contains any transfat, put the product down and walk away. It is commonly found in baked/fried goods, and even some chocolate bars, where ‘shortening’ or hydrogenated oils are used in the manufacturing process. This is typically found more in products at lower price points, where manufacturers are forced to lower costs of production by using lower quality cooking agents.

Skip all food that comes in a box: Anyone with high blood pressure is told to eat less salt. The first thing that people do is reduce the salt in their cooking, which is good. But this may not be good enough, since a lot of the sodium that we consume today is not because of the salt in our home cooking, but from packaged foods that we buy in the market. Even if the food isn’t salty, it may contain a high level of sodium. Sodium helps in prolonging the shelf life of packaged food, so most packaged foods comes loaded with sodium. Since it’s hard to keep track of how much sodium you’re consuming, it’s simply best to avoid any food that comes packaged.

Eat less street food: Street food or food from your local halwai can be terrible for your heart. They fry food at high temperatures, and use low quality oil, and use the same oil many times for frying. All these three actions lead to the production of transfats in your food. Further, for flavouring these vendors use a high amount of sodium, which has a double benefit as it allows food to be preserved for longer. Since it is hard to control the quality of ingredients used in street food, it’s best avoided.

Eat fish: Okay, you may be vegetarian, so this one might be hard for you, but certain fatty fish contain omega 3 fats, which are good for your heart and your overall health. Did you know that your brain is primarily composed of fat, and omega-3 fats are a major component. If you can’t eat fish, get a fish oil supplement. Read about the top 7 cholesterol lowering foods.

Start Exercising: Last but not the least, exercising is essential to improving heart health. It has multiple benefits. One, it helps reduce cholesterol build up. Two, it helps reduce sodium levels. Three- It will help you burn calories, which can help you reduce weight, and thus reduce the pressure on your heart. There are 10 more benefits of exercise, but you get the idea. Start exercising. Now sure how to start? Start slow if you’ve never done it. Find something you enjoy because you need to physically move- be it a sport, exercising in the gym, park, jogging, swimming whatever it is that you can stick with.