Your heart is the most important organ in your body! It pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. Your heart is also susceptible to many conditions which can be life threatening. Therefore, it is important to keep your heart healthy.
Cardiovascular Disease includes all diseases of the heart and circulation including coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, and stroke. It impacts an estimated 7 million people living in the UK and 90,000 people in Ireland. Did you also know that Cardiovascular Diseases causes nearly 160,000 deaths a year in the UK and 10,000 in Ireland?
There are lots of ways you can easily take care of your heart and are only small lifestyle changes:
Be physically active
Physical activity can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Along with controlling your weight, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol and improving your wellbeing. Your heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to help keep it in shape. This is essential for pumping your blood round your body properly. Research has shown regular physical activity can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by as much as 35%. Exercising regularly will increase your life expectancy, keep your heart healthy and make it stronger!
Practice healthy eating
A healthy diet is the key to preventing and managing heart disease. This means eating a variety of foods to give your body the essential nutrients needed and keep your heart healthy. A well-balanced diet needs to contain essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Along with lots of fruit and vegetables. How much you eat is also just as important as what you eat, it is all about portion control! Overloading your plate and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you need. Therefore, try monitoring your portions with a small bowl or plate.
Give up smoking
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart diseases. Thus, the best thing you can do for your heart health is to stop. The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your heart and blood vessels. This can contribute to inflammation that can cause plaque build-up in your arteries, damage blood vessel walls, increase blood pressure and heart rate. It can also lower your cholesterol and thicken blood making it hard for blood to carry oxygen. Quitting smoking will reduce the risk of a heart attack and cardiovascular death. Along with decreasing the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis and blood clots.
Limit your alcohol intake
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure and weight, increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. You don’t have to cut your favourite alcoholic beverages out of your life completely you simply need to not drink regularly more than 14 units per week according to the UK Chief Medical Officers. However, if you have an existing heart condition, alcohol may be dangerous. Especially for those who have inherited heart rhythm conditions.
Manage your weight
Maintaining a healthy weight cuts your risk of heart disease. It prevents and manages conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Eating healthy and well-balanced meals, being physically active and adopting healthy lifestyle choices can manage your weight and keep your heart healthy.
Minimise stress levels
Chronic stress can be quite damaging to your heart health. Therefore, it can cause increases in your heart rate and blood pressure which in turn may injure the artery walls. Chronic stress doesn’t directly cause a rise in blood pressure. However, other contributing factors can be overweight, over-consumption of salt, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol intake do. Chronic stress can take its toll on you physically and your body will tell you when you need to slow down to take a break. Trying listening to the warning signs and learn how to relax, a balanced diet and regular physical activity can help people cope with stress.
If you would like to learn more about heart health and research, you should have a read on these great websites British Heart Foundation, Heart Research UK, Heart UK, Cardiac Risk in the Young, Irish Heart and Heart Research Institute.