Medical Specialists® Pharmacy offer 6 tips for a healthy heart for National Heart Month
5th February 2015
National Heart MonthWith Valentine’s Day less than two weeks away, the second month of the year often causes pandemonium as couples all around the world, more than at any other time, use all the love in their heart’s to make that extra effort in showing their loved one how much they care. There could be another reason to think about the heart this month though – for those unaware, February is National Heart Month. The month-long campaign is led by the British Heart Foundation as a way to urge the nation to think more about heart health, as well as to increase awareness about heart and circulatory diseases. The campaign is one that is annually supported by Medical Specialists® Pharmacy as heart and circulatory diseases are the leading causes of death for adults in Britain. Heart disease comprises of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack and heart failure. However, there are steps to take to help prevent heart problems. . Cut down on alcohol intake The NHS recommends that men should not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, whilst for women the figure stands at just 2-3 units a day at most, and consuming more than this can have a detrimental impact to your heart health. Excessive alcohol intake can raise the amount of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood and also lead to abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke and obesity from the additional calories you are taking in.  Cutting down on alcohol can be made easier through the help of Medical Specialists® Pharmacy, who have recently began to supply the alcohol dependency treatment Selincro to suitable patients, after being inundated with requests for it. . Cut down on salt intake It is recommended that an adult should consume no more than 6g of salt per day – around one full teaspoon. As food labels sometimes only give the figure for sodium, people might be unsure how much they are getting but the following formula from the sodium figure listed, can help: Salt = sodium x 2.5. Therefore, adults should consume no more than 2.4g of sodium per day; equal to 6g of salt. Unfortunately, many of us in the UK consume far more than the 6g limit. On average, people in the UK eat about 8.1g of salt (3.2g sodium) a day. Too much salt can increase the volume of body fluids increases and raise blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) can then result in serious problems such as heart disease or stroke. .  Cut down on sugar intake The majority of food and drink products that contain plenty of added sugars, also contain a high number of calories, often having very little nutritional value. Consuming plenty of sugary food and drink on a regular basis can result in weight gain and obesity, thus risking health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Added sugars should comprise of no more than 10% of the energy (calorie intake) obtained from food and drink each day, which works out at around 70g for men and 50g for women, but can vary according to age, size, and how active a person is. Food and drink to consider cutting down on include: sugary cereals, fizzy drinks, sugary squash, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, cereal bars, cakes, ice cream, puddings and yoghurt. . Stop smoking Smoking causes damage to the lining of the arteries, thereby reducing the space for blood to travel through, with the carbon monoxide contained in cigarettes also effecting the amount of oxygen that can reach the heart and other areas of the body, forcing the heart to work much harder to supply the body with the oxygen it requires. The dangers of smoking are further explained on the British Heart Foundation’s website, but smokers are at double the risk of suffering from a heart attack compared to people that have never smoked and smoking is the main cause of a multitude of cancers and lung disease. Smoking cessation treatments such as Champix can help people quit smoking for good though and reduce the risk of heart problems. . Keep active Extra weight is widely accepted to be linked to increase the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, and all of these conditions then make heart disease or stroke all the more likely. For those unsure if they are at a healthy weight, body mass index (BMI) is usually one of the first port of calls to check this. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, whilst a BMI of 30 to 39.9 is considered to be obese. Exercise is a great way to shed the pounds but the simple fact remains that much of the nation lives a sedentary lifestyle. The NHS recommends that one step in treating obesity is to take up activities such as fast walking, jogging, swimming or tennis for 150-300 minutes a week, but obesity treatments like Xenical – in conjunction with a healthy diet – can help with weight loss too. . Lower cholesterol Adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise, as previously highlighted, can lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, or prevent cholesterol levels being too high to begin with. The higher the cholesterol level, the higher the risk of stroke or heart disease and therefore the overall risk of having a heart attack. Statin medication such as Atorvastatin or Pravastatin work to lower the LDL ('bad') cholesterol and raise the HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, and may be prescribed to certain people with risk factors for heart conditions, such as those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, older patients, smokers, or those with family history of early heart disease. The British Heart Foundation's webpage has more information about heart diseases and advice on how to beat them.  Moreover, the charity are encouraging the nation to show their support on 6 February by wearing red and hosting an event to raise funds for their life-saving research. Anyone can get involved, whether it is at the workplace, school or with friends and family, and there are loads of great ideas for fundraising and essentials such as the sponsorship form and event poster.