Ten tips for keeping your heart healthy
Every year, about 200 people in the UK will have their heart replaced. Coronary heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK, causing almost 74,000 deaths each year. More than a quarter of the deaths occur in people who are younger than 75 and experts say the majority are preventable.
As Inside Health: The Future Heart explores research around the potentially groundbreaking heart treatments of the future, we look at a few simple, everyday ways to help keep your ticker in shape.
1. Fruit and veg are good for you
The World Health Organization recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and veg a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease. Easier said than done? Try throwing some vegetables and fruit in the blender and starting the day with a tasty juice or smoothie, to help you on your way. Check the NHS website to find out what counts as part of your five a day.
2. Say no to tobacco
Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. According to the NHS, a year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. And your bank balance won’t look so bad either! Ditching the ciggies can be tricky so speak to your GP or head to the NHS Smokefree website which offers free support for those hoping to quit.
3. Ditch the bus for the bike
To keep the heart healthy, it is recommended that adults aged 19-64 fit in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. It sounds like a lot but broken down that’s 30 minutes of activity on five days of the week. If you can, running, cycling or walking to work is a great way to squeeze it in without taking time out of your day. You’ll impress your colleagues too.
4. Walk the dog
Taking the dog out for a walk is another brilliant way to get fresh air and daily exercise. Don’t have a pooch? Why not borrow a friend or neighbour’s furry friend? You’ll be doing them a favour, and you get some company while you exercise. Just don’t expect great conversation.
5. Fish Fridays
Cold water fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon are a rich source of omega-3 fats, which can help protect against heart disease. Try swapping meat out for fish a few days of the week. Cod luck!
6. Go nuts
Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and other nuts are packed with mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol. Grab a handful instead of crisps or chocolate when you feel peckish, and sprinkle them on top of salads or cereal for a tasty crunch.
7. Swap the cocktails for the mocktails
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol causes raised blood pressure – one of the biggest risk factors for having a heart attack. All those calories can also mean weight gain, another factor in heart disease. Try cutting down on the booze if you can, avoid binging, and squeeze in a few ‘dry’ days every week. There are some great alcohol free wines on the market plus some ‘mocktails’ taste as good as the real deal. Another fun way to hit your five a day!
8. Take a deep breath
Stress is another big factor in high blood pressure so try to stay calm and stress free as much as possible. Deep, slow breathing is the simplest technique for decreasing stress and therefore one of the most effective natural remedies for high blood pressure. You can do it wherever you are and whatever you’re doing – and it’s free!
9. Go Karaoke crazy
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that choristers’ heartbeats synchronised when they sang together, bringing about a calming affect that could mean resilience to cardiac arrest. Dr Björn Vickhoff, who led the study says, “Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing… It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.” Don’t fancy joining a choir? Then go wild with some guilt free singing in the shower.
10. Aim for eight hours between the sheets
Irregular or insufficient sleep – less than six hours a night – appears to be hazardous to our heart health, increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack. Sleep-deprived people have higher blood levels of stress hormones, a key player in cardiovascular disease, and lack of sleep can also alter your metabolism, making you prone to weight gain. If you can, keep your bedroom nice and quiet, try not to eat a big meal too late at night (which can ramp up your metabolism and make it difficult for your body to wind down), and avoid caffeine late in the day.