7 ways to take care of your heart
7 ways to take care of your heart
Have a heart for your heart – it works hard, pumping approximately 7,000 litres of blood every single day. Read on for seven simple ways to take care of your heart.
Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK. and the British Heart Foundation estimates that more than half of us will get a heart or circulatory condition in our lifetime. Many cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol. Here are seven simple ways to take care of your heart and protect yourself from life-threatening heart conditions.
Or, preferably, just don’t start. Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. But significant changes happen in as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette - namely, your body begins to get rid of nicotine and blood pressure and heart rate returns to normal. After one year, your risk of having a heart attack is half that of a smoker.
A 9-to-5 sedentary job combined with a lack of exercise significantly increases the risk of developing heart disease. The NHS advises to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic a week. You can fit that in by being more active generally, aiming for 30 minutes five days a week. This can include brisk walking, aqua aerobics or cycling. Just 8,000 steps a day can be enough to improve your overall health and decrease the risk of developing heart disease. Consult with your GP if you haven’t exercised for a while.
Maintaining a healthy weight with exercise and diet will make a big difference to your heart health. Carrying extra weight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes – all bad for the heart.
Opt for wholegrain cereals and bread, and fruit and veg (5 a day!). Focus on providing the body with omega-3 fatty acids, which can stimulate circulation, reduce the risk of clotting and thus prevent heart issues.
Eat fish at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish such as salmon (although pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t eat more than two portions of oily fish a week).
Oils high in Omega-3 include rapeseed oil, olive oil or linseed oil, and reach for walnuts, linseed and chia seeds.
Cut down on your saturated fats, such as fatty meat, butter and cakes, which can raise cholesterol, and in turn, increase your risk of heart disease.
Too much salt can increase your blood pressure. According to the World Health Organization, your daily dose of salt should not exceed 5g, which is equal to a flat teaspoon. Seems like a lot? Note that many of the processed foods you eat already contain salt. So, consider the entire menu and not just what you sprinkle on your food – and don’t add extra to your cooking!
Make sure to hydrate
It is extremely important to properly hydrate your body to help your heart do its job. How much you need is a very individual thing and water can come from food as well as drinks. But do keep topped up.
Look after your teeth
Whilst the connection between oral health and heart health isn’t yet fully understood, it is possible that gum disease might increase the risk of heart attack and stroke due to bacteria associated with tooth decay entering the blood stream.
The NHS says to brush for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste – and don’t forget to floss.
Don’t stress and sleep tight
The British Heart Foundation notes that stress alone doesn’t cause a heart attack but turning to unhealthy habits, such as alcohol or smoking to help cope, does. For advice to cope with stress in your day-to-day life, head to Mind, a charity that provides mental health information and support.
And look on the bright side of life – some studies argue that people who are happy and optimistic are less prone to health problems, including heart disease.
Sleep well – it has been found that six to eight hours a night for adults is optimal for heart health. Less, or indeed more, can be detrimental, according to several studies.
Get a regular check-up
Cardiac diseases can get worse with time. If diagnosed early, the treatment may be less invasive, easier and more effective. Given that high blood pressure and high cholesterol can both increase your risk of heart problems, it makes sense to get simple tests. Ask your GP or your pharmacist.
You could also consider non-invasive scans and examinations, such as echocardiograms to provide detailed information.