Five Ways To A Healthy Heart
Small changes can make the world of difference when it comes to a healthy heart
Good heart health is vital – and don’t just take our word for it. According to the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) report in December 2019, heart and circulatory diseases cause 27 per cent of all deaths in the UK; that’s nearly 170,000 deaths each year – an average of 460 people each day or one death every minute. But small changes can make the world of difference when it comes to a healthy heart.
1. Find out your heart age
The BHF and NHS Choices have partnered to help you find out your heart age with an online tool, which can help you better understand your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you are over 40 the BHF also recommends attending a free NHS Health Check, at your local GP, to get a complete picture of your overall health. These include checks for blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose – all potential risk factors for developing heart and circulatory diseases.
2. Know your blood pressure
According to research from the BHF published in 2019, four million people under the age of 65 in the UK are living with untreated high blood pressure. High blood pressure is known as the ‘silent killer’ because although there aren’t always symptoms it causes thousands of heart attacks and strokes every year.
Ashleigh Li, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation says: “If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure you will need to have it measured regularly and work with your GP to find ways to keep it down – this can include reducing salt intake, lowering stress levels, starting medication and maintaining a healthy weight.”
3. Get moving
It’s never too late to get active! Your GP can advise you on exercise programmes and moderate exercise to kick things off and by starting slowly you can build up your strength and enjoyment. If you have existing health conditions check with your GP before starting a new regime. Regular physical activity reduces your risk of coronary heart disease and many other conditions and can boost mental wellbeing. It can also help manage risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Motivation is also key so try matching your form of exercise to your personality – group sessions for sociable exercising, for example. Have a goal to work towards such as a 5k run for charity or enlist a buddy to exercise with.
4. Switch to a Mediterranean diet
Eating a healthy, balanced, Mediterranean-style diet can help reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This includes white and oily fish, along with plenty of fruit, vegetables and pulses, lentils, nuts, seeds, unsaturated oils and wholegrains, with only a small amount of foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat like fatty meats, cakes, biscuits and sweets. Variety is also key – it is thought that “eating the rainbow” of fruits and veg may be beneficial for your heart. Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day.
5. Keep calm
Stress can make us more likely to turn to unhealthy habits such as smoking, eating food that’s high in fat and sugar, drinking alcohol and avoiding exercise, says Ashleigh. According to Ashleigh, “stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.” If you suffer with stress, try to find activities that calm you down – as little as ten minutes extra exercise each day carries benefits. Listening to music, reducing your alcohol intake, speaking to friends or family and practising mindfulness or meditation (try the Calm app for beginners) can all help. www.bhf.org.uk, www.nhs.uk
MORE WAYS TO GET HEALTHY IN 2020 at www.timeandleisure.co.uk. Plus, an essential read from New Victoria Hospital for avoiding a common but rarely considered ski injury…