Top tips for a healthy heart during National Heart Month
February is the time of year when we get to show our other half how much they mean to us, using all the love in our heart to go all out to impress and show we care. However, in case you weren’t already aware, February is National Heart Month. It is a month-long campaign pioneered by the British Heart Foundation as a way to increase awareness about heart and circulatory diseases. Although deaths from the two are falling, heart and circulatory disease is still one of the biggest killers in the UK and there are an estimated 2.6 million people living with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) in the UK alone. We all have a heart, so we are all potentially at risk. You can adhere to some basic lifestyle improvements though to improve your heart health and limit the risk of developing heart disease. . Stop smoking Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, meaning space for blood to pass through is decreased, and the carbon monoxide in cigarettes hinders the amount of oxygen that can travel to your heart and other areas of the body. Smokers are double the risk of suffering from a heart attack than non-smokers and smoking is the main cause of a multitude of cancers and lung disease. . Stay active Keeping fit and active is great for your waistline and general appearance, but exercise is great for the heart too. Unfortunately, statistics show that 7 out of 10 of us are not engaging in physical activity and thus are increasing their risk of heart disease. This doesn’t mean you need to rush to the local gym to sign up, but small changes can make a big difference. Keeping active helps to lower blood pressure; a risk factor for heart disease, boosts good HDL cholesterol responsible for moving fat away from arteries and back to the liver for processing and will help to improve circulation by stopping blood clots from forming which can cause a heart attack or stroke. A brisk walk for 30 to 40 minutes done three times per week should suffice to reduce your cardiovascular risk. . Limit alcohol intake Drinking more than the recommended units of alcohol per day (3-4 for men, 2-3 for women) can have a detrimental impact to your heart health. Excessive alcohol can raise the quantity of a type of fat in the blood called triglycerides and also lead to abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke and obesity/diabetes from the additional calories you are taking in. . Reduce your salt intake If you, like so many others, have a diet that is high in sodium, this can lead to serious health problems. Sodium increases blood pressure as it causes the body to keep hold of excess fluid and blood volume increases, creating an added burden on the heart with increased pressure in the arteries. It is generally recommended that an adult should not consume more than 6g/1 teaspoon of salt each day. Certain foods are high in hidden salts and you should try to limit how much of them you eat. These include: baked beans, canned vegetables, cheese, crisps, pizzas and ready meals. . Consider statins Statins such as atorvastatin and pravastatin are tremendous for heart health because they target the metabolism of cholesterol in the body. Working in the liver, statins lower the bad LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream by between 20 and 60 per cent. High levels of bad cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to clog up your arteries and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Statins have been shown to lower the death rate from cardiovascular diseases without increasing the death rate from other causes. You may be prescribed statins even if you appear to be in good health, for example if you have a prominent family history of cardiovascular disease.