Tips to improve heart health and avoid high cholesterol
20th September 2012
If you are not already aware, it is currently National Cholesterol Week! Medical Specialists Pharmacy supports the raising awareness of such an important subject and we are doing everything we can to get people in the know about the risks of having high cholesterol. This seems especially vital after we reported yesterday that many of the population are not fully clued up on the subject, to say the least. Medical Specialists are not the only major organisation in the UK to get behind the scheme however, other major organisations to throw their support behind the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle include: Marks and Spencers, Coca Cola, Tesco, Sainsbury and Dr Oats. The main theme with this year’s National Cholesterol Week is holding a ‘Hearty Tea Party’, whereby people are encouraged to host a tea party for family and friends. These tea parties will hopefully help to raise money through things such as raffles, selling tickets for entry to your party, charging guests for a brew, stalls selling plants, crafts, cakes etc., and the old classic ‘guess the weight of the cake’ game. The money raised will go towards helping those suffering with high cholesterol and who are at a dangerous risk of suffering heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and many other life-threatening conditions. One of the most effective ways to decrease your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels is through statin therapy with the use of medications such as Crestor or Lipitor. However, there are many other things you can start doing to improve your lifestyle that will drastically improve your heart health in the process too! These are things you should not wait until years into the future when it could be too late, take a positive and proactive view today, your heart will thank you for it. . Reduce your salt intake Having too much salt in your diet will raise your blood pressure and thus increase your risk of coronary heart disease. Anybody over the age of 11 should be having no more than 6g of salt each day in their diet. Certain foods have a high salt content and you should think about having them less frequently, or cutting them out of your diet. They include: bacon, baked beans, bread, canned vegetables, cheese, crisps, ham, pork pies, pizza, and ready meals. Parents should try to make sure their children don’t eat too much salt which will result in them developing a taste for salty foods and affect them in later life. . Cut out the cigarettes More specifically, stop smoking! There is surely nothing else that a person can do themselves that will help them live for many more years. Non-smokers are twice as less likely to suffer from a heart attack in comparison to their smoking friends. With smoking bans still very much in place for the foreseeable future, and plenty of wet/miserable weather hitting the UK currently, there has never been a better time to stub out for good! . Control your alcohol intake Drinking more than four to five units of alcohol each day can pose problems for cardiac health. Consuming high levels of alcohol can over time increase triglycerides in your blood. These are a particular kind of fat found in the bloodstream and increased levels of triglycerides can result in artery walls thickening up, leaving you susceptible to blood clots.  Limit your intake to one or two units of alcohol per day and this will then reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis, which is when a build-up of cholesterol and other fats clog up the walls of the arteries and can result in chronic chest pain and a heart attack. Consistent binge drinking can also put you at risk of a heart attack as well as weight gain and obesity. . Eat more fruit and vegetables Fruit and veg should be a staple of everybody’s diet as they are an excellent natural source of vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet should ideally include five or more serving of fruit and vegetables each day as they include antioxidants and other nutrients that are beneficial for great heart health.  Some studies though have shown that eight servings a day can even lead to a 22% reduction in the risk of dying from heart disease. Vitamin C is a common and powerful antioxidant found in many fruit and veg and this works at preventing cholesterol from ‘oxidising’. This basically means when cholesterol levels in your blood get too high and become ‘sticky’. Therefore the cholesterol attaches better to artery walls and calcifies as plaque. This plaque causes major health problems in regards to cardiovascular health. . Become more active Adults should try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per day for five days a week. This can include: basketball, cycling, hiking, rollerblading, volleyball and walking fast. These activities mean you will be working hard enough to increase your heart rate actually break out in a sweat. Remember that your heart is a muscle; it needs to you to exercise so it can remain fighting fit and pumping blood around your body to the best of its ability. Exercise can also lift a person’s mood and prevent weight gain. . Check your family history As we mentioned yesterday, ‘familial hypercholesterolaemia’, (FH), is a potentially dangerous inherited condition that not many people are aware of. It is where somebody is born with high cholesterol because of a genetic defect, putting them at high risk of having vascular diseases and hardening of the arteries much earlier than normal. There are an estimated 120,000 sufferers in the UK and only around 15% are even aware they have the condition. It is advisable that everyone visits their doctor who can carry out a simple cholesterol check. If your cholesterol is abnormally high then they can suggest ways to best manage this, such as through statin medication. So there you have it. These are just six of many ways that you can improve your heart health and also reduce the risk of you suffering from high cholesterol. They are all changes that you can start doing today, not five or ten years into the future. We encourage everybody to get on board and support National Cholesterol Week. With the weekend approaching, why don’t you begin organising your own Hearty Tea Party, raising both money and awareness about the dangers of high cholesterol. You can even share your own health tips and ideas with friends and family, listen to stories about what others are doing and start arranging healthy activities to get involved in with others such as trips to the gym, etc.