Top tips for a healthy heart

Healthy Living > Physical health > Top tips for a healthy heart

Blog Article | By Simplyhealth 2 October 2020

Heart and circulatory diseases are common in the UK. In fact, there are around 7.4million people in the UK, who live with them. That’s about twice the number of people living with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined1.

 

And sadly, more than a quarter of all UK deaths are caused by heart and circulatory diseases – around one death every three minutes1. Scary stuff.

 

There are some common risk factors associated with heart conditions. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can all increase chances of heart disease.

 

Keeping your heart healthy is important to avoid these problems. And there are lots of small changes you can make every day to improve your heart’s health.

Running to keep the heart healthy
Start moving
 

Sometimes it can be hard to fit exercise into our daily routine. But you don’t need to hit the gym or run a 5k to start making a difference. Small steps can help keep your heart strong. Simple tweaks to your habits can slot easily into your day:

 

  • Walking is a great way to get your heart working. You can skip the lift or escalators and take the stairs. Or walk to work or your local shop. Choosing a parking space further away, or getting off the bus a few stops early, can also help you build up your steps.
  • Get the family involved in activities such as swimming, cycling, or a kick-about in the back garden.
  • Household chores like gardening, vacuuming or cleaning windows can all be forms of physical exercise. Play some music to help keep you motivated and on your feet as you move around the house.

Want even more ways to keep your activity levels up? We've got a few ideas. 

Healthy Living Hub
Eat well
 

A healthy diet plays a huge part in reducing the risk of developing heart disease and preventing you from gaining weight, reducing the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. The best thing is to give yourself a balanced, varied diet:

 

  • Make sure you eat five portions of fruit and veg every day (or more) - one portion is about a handful. Have fruit with your normal breakfast, opt for a smoothie or natural fruit juice, and combine vegetables into your cooking such as in your favourite sauces.
  • Too much salt in your diet can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. In turn, this can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Try to reduce your salt intake by carefully checking food labels, and limiting things like fast food and takeaways to occasional treats.
  • Understand the different types of fat and how they can affect your heart. Saturated fats, found in foods like cheese, butter, and fatty meats can raise your cholesterol levels, having a negative effect on your heart. Swap them out for foods containing unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds and oily fish.

Learn how to fuel your body with the nutrition it needs. We've got a collection of articles by nutritionist Monica Durigon

Articles about nutrition
Give up smoking
 

Quitting smoking is one of the best ways you can look after yourself – and not just for your heart. In just days you can start noticing the positive changes, and after 12 months of no smoking, your risk of heart disease is reduced to nearly half that of a smoker's. Here are some ideas to help you kick the habit:

 

  • Stay focused on your goal by writing down a list of reasons why you want to quit and referring to it regularly. Better yet, ask a friend or relative to check in with you on your progress to support you through your journey.
  • Think about what your triggers are. Perhaps smoking is part of your daily routine, or you only smoke in social situations. Understanding what drives you to smoke can help you plan ahead and train your brain to occupy yourself in other ways.
Reduce your alcohol intake
 

Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can be detrimental to your health, and especially your heart. Abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and damage to the heart muscle can all happen as a result of regularly drinking too much. Guidelines say that we should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week – that’s six pints of beer or six 175ml glasses of wine2. Keep your alcohol consumption in check by:

 

  • Making sure you have several alcohol-free days each week. Assign yourself ‘drink-free days’ and stick to them.
  • Measuring your drinks to keep track of how many units you’ve had. Use the right-sized glassware and even reduce the amounts, opting for a small glass of wine instead of a large, or a bottle of beer instead of a pint.
Take time for yourself

 

When we feel stressed, it’s easy to seek comfort in unhealthy activities, which are bad for our heart; smoking, eating unhealthy foods and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine. If you feel stressed it’s important to take time for yourself to wind down and feel calm. Consider some of the following techniques:

 

  • Getting outside in the fresh air and exercising is a great way to de-stress. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins – clever chemicals that reduce pain or stress, and boost pleasure.
  • Write down what’s on your mind. Whether it’s an overwhelming to-do list that’s whirling around, or even if you just want to vent your thoughts, writing these down can make you feel a lot more relaxed.
  • Dedicate just five or ten minutes each day to unwinding. You can use a meditation or mindfulness app as a guide to help you do this until you become an expert in the art of switching off.

We have a whole section dedicated to your mental health. Methods and guidance on how to adapt, and thrive, in what seems to be a pretty hectic world. 

Take care of your mental wellbeing

Information sourced from the British Heart Foundation:

 

1. https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

2. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/heart-conditions/keep-your-heart-healthy

 

For more ideas on keeping your heart healthy, or for further support and advice, visit the British Heart Foundation.

More about keeping your body healthy The Healthy Living hub

This material may contain links to other websites operated by third parties. It is the responsibility of third parties to ensure such material and websites comply with all relevant laws and regulations. To the maximum extent permissible by law Simplyhealth disclaims all responsibility for such websites.