In our final ‘National Heart Month’ blog, we look at healthy living and the idea that leading the right lifestyle can assist your heart, strengthen it and look after it. It is, after all, the most important organ in your body.
So where do we start?
- Coronary Heart Disease is the UK’s biggest killer causing approximately 73,000 deaths every year
- Almost 1 in 6 men and 1 in 10 women die from CHD
- Approximately 23,000 people under the age of 75 die from CHD in the UK per year
- Family history of heart disease can heighten your risk of CHD
- Ethnic background – the risk of South Asian people in the UK dying from CHD is up to 50% higher than for white people
- There are approximately 60,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests per year in the UK
- In 2013, the Emergency Services attempted to resuscitate 28,000 people after they suffered an OHSCA
Okay, that’s enough. You get it right? Your heart is the single most important part of your body and it needs to be looked after in order for it work properly and for as long as possible. Here we hope to provide you with some small and fairly simple changes that can boost your heart health and ensure you are doing as much as possible when it comes to protecting your most vital organ.
Top of the list? Eating a healthy, balanced diet provides your body and your heart with all the nutrients and vitamins it needs to be strong and work properly.
(Did you know that your heart beats 100,000 times a day and for each passing minute, it pumps 1.5 gallons of blood around the body? #workhorse).
How do we make sure we’re eating a well balanced diet? Stick to your main 5 food groups and eat in moderation from all is probably the best place to start. The groups?
- Fruit and Vegetables
- Starchy Foods: Bread, Rice, Pasta and Potatoes
- Non-Dairy: Meat, Fish, Eggs and Beans
- Fats and Sugars
Ensuring that you eat a balanced diet helps to lower cholesterol levels and also helps to reduce your risk to some cancers. Reducing your cholesterol is how you can help your heart however, cholesterol is a fatty substance found in your blood and it can increase your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
There are two types of cholesterol, the good type (HDL – high density lipoproteins) and the bad type (LDL – low density lipoproteins). If you have too much bad cholesterol in your body, it can cause a high level of fatty materials to build up in your artery walls; this blocks the blood flow to and from the heart and increases the strain on the organ itself.
Another way to reduce cholesterol and help your heart? Committing to regular exercise can help whilst also helping you to control your weight and reducing your blood pressure.
Sound daunting? The key is to start small and easy. Simple exercises like going for a walk everyday (why not during your lunch hour?) and being realistic with what you can achieve in the beginning will get you hooked on progression.
It is recommended that you should aim for approximately 30-60 minutes worth of exercise per day, which if it seems like you’re never going to fit that in, try dividing it down to 3/6 ten minute sessions throughout the day and you’ve solved it.
The key to continuing with your physical activity plan week after week is to take baby steps and not try to run a marathon when you jump on the tread mill for the first time in 12 months. That is a sure fire way to either injure yourself or become disheartened that you are unable to do it - which subsequently will reduce your motivation to do exercise.
As an example, a weekly exercise programme could look something like this:
- Monday – 30 minute home weights and a YouTube aerobic exercise routine
- Tuesday – 45 minute cardiovascular exercise session at the gym/outdoor run
- Wednesday – rest/lunch time walk near work
- Thursday – 45 minute cardiovascular exercise session at the gym/outdoor run
- Friday – 30 minute home weights and a YouTube aerobic exercise routine
With this simple example 5 day plan, you have hit the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week and included a variety of exercise to work different areas of the body and in different ways. And you now have the added weekend to either rest up for the following week or increase your physical activity even further, how about a walk in the country?
Cut out smoking and drinking
These seem like quite obvious options as well don’t they? But a reduction in smoking and drinking (if you can manage to cut them out completely that would be even better) can have major benefits on your health and in particularly, your heart.
(Did you know that smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to people who have never smoked)
How does smoking damage your heart you ask? Well first off, it damages the linings of your arteries, causing a build up of that old fatty material we spoke of earlier which can lead to a series of health problems including angina, heart attack or even stroke.
(Did you also know that after a year of giving up smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke has dropped to less than half that of a smoker.)
Secondly, the carbon monoxide found in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, this means that your heart has to work harder to supply the body with much needed oxygenated blood that it needs. Whilst the nicotine found in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline which makes your heart beat faster and raises blood pressure. Not good.
Finally, and probably, most importantly, if you smoke your blood is more likely to clot – this means that you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
And that’s just smoking; we haven’t even got to alcohol yet.
Drinking more than the recommended amounts of alcohol regularly can have adverse effects on your health, not just your heart, with abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure and even damage to the heart muscle itself not out of the question.
Over drinking can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which is one the most important factors contributing to heart attack and stroke, whilst it can also impact your weight and the strength of the heart muscle which means the muscle finds it harder to pump blood around the body, known as ‘cardiomyopathy’.
Like to learn more?
If you would like to learn more about your heart during National Heart Month, our blog is packed full of usefully information including the top 50 things you didn’t know about your heart... probably, and how having a great sense of humour can improve your heart health.