Whilst the world is celebrating love today, we wanted to highlight how important it is to take care of our hearts, and not just in the romantic sense. It is vital that we understand how to keep them healthy so we can reduce the risk of heart disease – did you know that is the second most preventable cause of death in the UK?
Here are our tips for keeping our hearts healthy and happy. Now, you may look at these and think they are simply common sense, however if you are truely honest with yourself, are they common practice within your life?
Manage your cholesterol
Your body needs cholesterol (a fatty substance carried in the blood) to be healthy, but an imbalance and build up of cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart complications such as an attack or stroke. When was the last time you had a cholesterol check? The best way to reduce cholesterol is to reduce saturated fats, eliminate trans fats and include omega-3 rich foods in your diet.
If you are diabetic, it is important to manage your diabetes appropriately to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. Ensure you have regular check ups with your GP, stay hydrated, monitor your blood-sugar levels and get regular moderate exercise.
We all know smoking is super bad for you, and being smoke free it is one of the most important things you can do to protect your heart. There are loads of ways to quit, although we understand it is a hard thing achieve. Make sure you research all the options available to you, get support and find a way that works for you. Also remember if you slip up, don’t ruin the whole plan, forgive yourself and get back on track.
Manage your blood pressure
Blood pressure isn’t usually something you can feel or know when it is either too high (hypertension) or too low (hypotension) – but both need to be treated. If it’s too high – which you will only know if you get a test – you can lower it by cutting down on alcohol and caffeine, losing weight, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. If too low, look out for persistent symptoms such as dizziness, feeling nauseous, blurred vision, feeling weak or fainting. If you are between 40-74 years old you should have a blood pressure check every 5 years.
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Yes, most people know this but yet it seems like the hardest thing sometimes to achieve – again common knowledge verses common practice. If you want to lose weight then the trick is to cut down rather than cut out foods, and make small changes that over time will make a huge difference. Plus take your time, putting weight on took time, so the same applies the other way. Otherwise it will never stay off and that’s always the end goal. Swapping a few meals a week for something really healthy will start to feel great and inspire you to make even more permanent changes.
As above, our bodies need a variety of food groups, so cutting one out isn’t very helpful. Eating a varied diet of healthy foods has so many benefits and can help with your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. That doesn’t mean you cannot have a treat now and again – its about finding a balance that works for you. When it comes to heart disease there are a few things that will make a big difference – reduce sugar levels, reduce salt intake, swap unhealthy fats with healthy fats and limit alcohol.
Be physically active
Getting the heart rate up and blood pumping is great for your heart and overall health. A regular routine of moderate activity is really good for you, and it’s never too late to make a start and feel the benefits. Go for a walk, swim, jog, join a gym, do a workout dvd, take a class, sign up for a charity challenge – whatever it is start slow, set goals and challenge yourself. If you work in an office and sit for long periods of time, finding a way to be more active is super important – have a stand up meeting, discuss a new project whilst going for a walk, instead of sending emails to the next room or department, get up and go see them, take the stairs instead of the lift. Try to get up at least once an hour. Being physically active between projects and tasks will actually help you to reset and be more focused and productive.
Our mental health can have an overwhelming affect on our physical health, and studies have shown that there is a greater risk of heart disease for people who have depression or are socially isolated. Depression isn’t just feeling low or depressed, it is a long term illness which can manifest in seemingly the “happiest” or ‘most together” person. The most important thing to do is speak up and tell someone – a doctor, friend or family member.
Your age and family history also affect your risk for heart disease. Risks can be higher if you are a woman over age 55, a man over age 45, your father or brother had heart disease before age 55 or your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.
Always seek advice from a medical professional if you feel unwell or want to change your diet, physical activity and lifestyle.