World Heart Day
Today is World Heart Day! So what better time than now to make a few simple changes in your life to keep your heart (and body) as healthy as possible?
First, let’s figure out if you’re at risk of heart disease:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure?
- Are you overweight or obese?
- Do you get enough physical activity & exercise?
- Do you have a healthy diet?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the first 3 questions, and/or 'no' to the last 2 questions then, unfortunately, you are at risk of developing heart disease.
Of course, there are other factors such as your age and family history which will have an effect. Particularly if:
- You are a woman over the age of 55.
- You are a man over the age of 45.
- Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55.
- Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.
This information can be scary, but there’s good news! There are lots of steps you can take to prevent heart disease.
This is the most crucial step you can take to lower your risk of heart disease. Smoking is one of the leading risk factors of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and strokes. After quitting smoking for 15 years, these risks fall to the same level as those of somebody who has never smoked.
As well as stopping smoking, you should also avoid others who smoke, as second-hand smoke can also impact your health in a negative way. In fact, 600,000 non-smokers (including children) are killed each year from inhalation of second-hand smoke.
Lowering Blood Pressure:
There are a number of things you can do to lower your blood pressure, and in turn lower your risk of heart disease, including:
- Having a balanced and varied diet.
- Avoiding stressful situations as much as possible and adopting stress-reducing habits – such as relaxation exercises or breathing techniques (yoga) for when stress cannot be avoided.
- Quitting smoking.
- Limiting salt intake.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
If you have high blood pressure, you should work closely with your doctor who will help manage and monitor changes in your blood pressure.
Exercise & Weight Loss Management:
As we have just said above, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are vital to lowering your blood pressure and preventing heart disease. We recommend at least 30 - 60 minutes of exercise per day; this can be anything from a brisk walk – to a jog around the block a few times. The exercise doesn’t have to be intensive; the key is to stay active!
Nutrition & Diet:
As well as exercise; nutrition and diet are a massive part of looking after your heart. A diet of raw fruit and veg, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids (which are often found in fish) help to prevent heart disease; even if you have a family history of heart disease.
The ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, and focuses on:
- Eating herbs, nuts, and olive oil.
- Limiting the consumption of red meat to one or two times per month.
- Increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Eating fish twice per week.
As well as increasing your intake of healthy foods, you should also avoid (or at least limit) foods that can worsen the risk of heart disease. This includes anything with high amounts of sugar or salt, alcohol, and foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. So foods like; pizza, cheeseburgers, chocolate & sweets, and beer & cocktails. We’re not saying you can’t enjoy these things, because we know they taste great! However, they should be a part of a balanced diet and enjoyed within moderation.
We hope this article has given you a greater understanding of heart disease and how to keep your heart healthy. For more information about World Heart Day, see the World Heart Federation website.