10 simple ways to boost your heart health
There are an estimated 7 million people living with cardiovascular disease in the UK. Often thought of as a male issue, heart disease actually kills twice as many women each year as breast cancer. But with some easy lifestyle tweaks, we can all help reduce our risk. This heart health month, protect yourself with these simple tips:
1 Limit salt
A high-salt diet can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, yet most adults are eating more than the recommended maximum of 6g a day, so check food labels. You may see ‘sodium’ listed on the label rather than salt. To convert this into salt, you need to multiply the quantity on the label by 2.5.
2 Get off the sofa
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, to keep your heart fit. With the rise of technology, we’re becoming increasingly sedentary. Try to build activity into your working day wherever possible – be it a walk at lunchtime or even an exercise session. And plan some activity on a few evenings – whether it’s an evening stroll or a swim – instead of switching on the TV.
3 Up your omega-3
Studies show omega-3 fatty acids may help lower risk of heart failure. Aim for at least two servings of oily fish per week, or take a supplement.
4 Know your number
Thirty per cent of UK adults have high blood pressure, but up to half don’t treat it, say the British Heart Foundation. Ask your GP to check it.
5 Choose wholegrains
These are great high-fibre options that help to keep your heart and digestive system healthy and fill you up, making you less likely to snack unhealthily. Think wholegrain bread, rice and pasta.
6 Get some shut-eye
Research has found that women who get fewer hours of sleep tend to have higher levels of circulating chemicals that indicate general inflammation, thought to be related to heart disease. This links with other research suggesting that a good night’s sleep may help keep the heart and circulation healthy.
7 Have a health check
Over-40s can get a free NHS Health Check; this monitors cholesterol and screens for type 2 diabetes, which raises risk of heart disease.
8 Take Vitamin D
Research in Canada established a clear relationship between increased mortality and vitamin D deficiency and symptoms in patients with heart failure. Also, research from Warwick Medical School found that people with high levels of vitamin D almost halve their risk of heart disease.
9 Drink pomegranate juice
Research from the University of California suggests that heart patients experienced significant improvements in blood flow to the heart after only three months of taking pomegranate juice.
10 Switch off
People who are stressed are less likely to eat a good diet, don’t get the chance to be physically active and may smoke, too. Resulting high stress levels are linked to heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure, so it’s vital to find time to switch off from time-to-time. It may be a long soak in the bath, reading a book or a cycle ride in the park – different methods work for different people so find what helps you – not just for your heart, but your overall health.
And the less simple, but still crucial, things you can do to help your heart:
Stub it out
Twenty thousand deaths a year from heart disease are down to smoking.
Drop the pounds
Being overweight raises your risk of heart disease. Fat cells produce the chemical interleukin and the hormone leptin in the body, which in turn increase the stickiness of the blood, making it more likely to clot. Losing weight can turn these off. Check if your weight is healthy or not at nhs.uk/tools.