Your heart is arguably the most important and busiest muscle in your body, pumping blood and oxygen to all your other organs none stop, 24-hours a day! With that in mind, it is extremely important to give it the care and attention it needs as when your heart gets out of shape, serious problems can develop.
In July 2021, the British Heart Foundations statistics showed that there are 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK and that people with these diseases account for a quarter of all deaths annually. Additionally, the total cost of healthcare treating these diseases is £9 billion.
The good news is that there are various ways in which we can help look after our hearts ourselves! Here are our top 5 tips to help in keeping your heart healthy…
- Smoking! Try to avoid smoking or give up if you are a smoker. Smoke not only reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry around the body, but also oxidizes blood cholesterol which allows it to stick to the artery walls. This can increase blood pressure and susceptibility to clotting.
- Lifestyle - stress can thicken the blood and increase blood pressure. This means heart attacks and strokes are far more likely so learn to relax through anyway you can. Gentle exercise is great for reducing stress and being active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Try and do 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week.
- Weight management is also key as it goes without saying that the larger you are, the harder the heart must work to pump more blood around the body. This in turn can cause an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a common cause of heart attack.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Not only will this help you keep your weight under control, but it will also help your heart health. A heart friendly diet requires-
- High fibre (at least 30g a day) It’s good to get your fibre from a variety of sources such as wholemeal bread, bran, oats, nuts & seeds, wholegrain cereals, potatoes with their skins on, and plenty of fruit and veg (see below).
- Your 5 a day Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg each day. Approximately 80g of fresh, canned, or frozen fruit or vegetables, 30g of dried fruits or 150 ml of fresh fruit or vegetable juice (limit to 1 of these per day) count as a ‘portion’.
- Low saturated fats Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fats can increase the level of cholesterol in your blood, which in turn, can increase your risk of heart disease.
- Manage salt intake To help maintain healthy blood pressure be aware of the amount of salt you are having in your diet. The NHS recommend that Adults should eat less than 6g of salt a day in total – that's about 1 teaspoon so be careful of the amount you are adding to your food and check food labels.
- Eat fish Incorporate fish into your diet at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish. Fish such as pilchards, sardines and salmon are a good source of omega-3 fats, which may help protect against heart disease.
5. Supplementation is always an option for those that struggle to get the right nutrients through their diet alone and may need some extra help. Supplements can also be used to help manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Speak with your doctor to assess your health and lifestyle to see which supplements may be of benefit to you.