|Blog Article|||||By Simplyhealth||5 February 2021|
Did you know your heart beats around 100,000 times a day? With every beat it works hard to pump blood through your body, around 5 litres in fact1. Our hearts play such an important role in keeping us all alive and well, but sadly heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter (27%) of all deaths in the UK2.
The good news is there are lots of ways that you can help to reduce your risk of heart attacks, stroke and other heart and circulatory diseases. Loving your heart is like any special relationship: a little effort goes a long way. Making a few simple lifestyle changes can really ‘up your game’ when it comes to caring for your heart. Even if you already have a heart condition, small changes can offer big benefits for your heart.
Tending to your mental wellbeing and working to change your response to stress is a great way to help love your heart. Loneliness, anxiety and feeling stressed won’t directly cause heart and circulatory diseases but experiencing these emotions may encourage you to turn to bad habits, such as unhealthy ‘comfort’ foods, alcohol and smoking – which are not good for your health.
Avoiding stress altogether is tricky, so trying relaxation techniques, focussing on the positives and connecting with the good people in your life may help you improve your emotional health.
It’s important to tell your GP if you know your family’s history of heart attacks or strokes. You can be monitored closely for warning signs such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels which may increase your risk, but usually have no symptoms3.
Although your family history is something that you cannot change, by making some simple lifestyle changes, you can help to reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.
High on the list of heart-hostile foods are saturated fats and salt. Consuming too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, while too much salt can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Too much saturated fat or salt in your diet can also increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease3.
Eating five portions of fruit and veg each day is a high priority, not just for your heart, but also your overall health. The 5 A Day campaign recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer4.
For further advice on eating well for your heart, visit the British Heart Foundation website: www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/healthy-living/healthy-eating
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia3.
Willpower is the number one requirement: cut back on portion sizes, replace high sugar food or drinks with reduced sugar or sugar-free alternatives, read food labels to help you make healthier nutrition choices and remember to keep active!
Alcohol misuse is associated with many health risks. Long-term heavy drinking can result in raised blood cholesterol levels and an increase in blood pressure, both of which are major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes4.
The British Heart Foundation has advice around sensible alcohol use: www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/healthy-living/healthy-eating/alcohol and this tool will tell you if you need to make changes to how much you’re drinking: www.drinkaware.co.uk/tools/self-assessment.
Smoking is one of the worst possible scenarios for your life-giving heart. With every cigarette, you inhale around 4,000 chemicals3. Did you know, nearly 20,000 UK heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributed to smoking each year3?
If you’re trying to quit smoking, the NHS has lots of support to help you: www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/
Once you do stop, the benefits come thick and fast. Within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, your blood circulation improves and after one year, your risk of a heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker's4.
Being active can reduce your risk of developing some heart and circulatory diseases by as much as 35%3. Keeping active has many health benefits, such as helping you to maintain a healthy weight3 and reducing your risk of coronary heart disease4.
There are many simple ways that you can help to increase your daily activity levels. For example, walking around during phone calls and trying out exercise activities that you can do at home, such as cardio or muscle strengthening workouts.
By making some of these heart-healthy changes, you can take a preventative approach towards your heart health to reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. And what's more, making these small lifestyle changes won’t just benefit your heart, they can also help look after your overall wellbeing too.
Don't forget you have access to our complementary health and wellbeing app, SimplyMe. Covering five health categories: heart, mental health, sleep, weight and activity, it supports you in making positive changes.
2 British Heart Foundation UK Factsheet January 2021, available at www.bhf.org.uk
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