Matters of the heart- How to keep your heart healthy.
Dr Anita’s Top 10 tips for a healthy heart
Most of us will have heard of the terms Heart Disease, Cardiovascular disease, Myocardial infarction, Angina, Arterial disease, but what exactly do these mean and are we at risk of getting them?
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for any disease affecting the heart, brain and blood vessels in the body, which includes the list of conditions I have listed above.
Firstly, lets remind ourselves of what the Heart does and how it works. This will make it easier to understand how disease can affect the heart function and make us unwell with Heart disease.
What is the heart and what does it do?
The heart is a vital organ about the size of a fist. It works around the clock to pump blood and oxygen around the body to keep us alive.
It beats approximately 100,000 times a day and pumps around 23,000 litres of blood around the body a day. Pretty impressive work!
The heart has its own vital blood supply and when the blood vessels that supply the heart start to clog up with bad fats, the blood flow to the heart reduces, causing the condition, which we call coronary heart disease.
This can lead to something called angina, where people get chest pain, particularly when they exert themselves. Our heart has a greater need for a good blood supply when it works harder during exertion. When you have angina the blood flow to the heart is reduced because of these fatty blockages. This makes the heart muscle ache because it is lacking in blood and vital oxygen, that’s when people get the classic angina chest pain.
If the coronary arteries block completely this results in a heart attack, where the blood stops flowing to part of the heart muscle and dies.
How common is heart Disease?
Here are some Shocking statistics.
- One person dies of a heart attack every 7 minutes in the UK
- Coronary heart disease is the UKs biggest killer.
- 1 in 6 men and 1 in 10 women will die of heart disease.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
- Chest pain-Tightness or discomfort in the chest, neck, arm or stomach which comes on when you exert yourself but goes away with rest may be the first sign of angina
- Palpitations- irregular heart beats of feeling the heart racing
- Shortness of breath
- Ankle swelling
- Dizzy spells
Who is at risk?
The following things increase our risks of heart disease:
- Age- the older we get the higher our risk
- Family history
- Excess alcohol
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High salt intake
- Poor diet and lack of exercise
So it makes sense that in order to prevent heart disease we should try to eliminate as many of these risks as possible.
If you think you may be at risk or are worried that you may be getting symptoms of heart disease, please go and see your GP.
What you can do to keep your heart healthy? Here are my Top Ten Tips to keep your Heart Healthy:
1. Get your blood pressure checked by your GP.
Your blood pressure represents the force of the heart as it pumps blood around the body.
If it is too high it could be a sign that the heart is under strain.
The higher your blood pressure, the shorter your life expectancy. People with high blood pressure run a higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack.
The problem is high blood pressure has no symptoms, 1 in 5 of the adult population have it and don’t realise, so really this needs to be checked yearly.
2: Get your Cholesterol levels checked:
Cholesterol is produced by the liver from the saturated fats – the bad fats in our diet.
High levels can lead to fatty deposits in your arteries that increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diseases that affect the circulation. You can help lower your cholesterol level by exercising and eating high-fibre foods such as porridge, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential fats that can lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol
3. Stop smoking.
Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a person can do to live longer. If you are a smoker, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker. The chemicals in cigarettes can damage your arteries and smoking can also increase your blood pressure.
But from the moment you stop smoking, the risk of heart attack starts to reduce, and will reduce by 50% in just 1 year of stopping
4. Monitor your alcohol.
Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and also lead to weight gain. Binge drinking will increase your risk of having a heart attack, so you should aim to limit your intake to one to two units a day.
5. Get active.
The heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to keep fit so that it can pump blood efficiently round your body with each heartbeat. You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day. If this seems too daunting, start off gently and build up gradually. Keeping fit not only benefits your physical health – it improves your mental health and wellbeing too.
6. Manage your weight.
The number of people who are overweight in Britain is rising fast – already more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese. Carrying a lot of extra weight as fat can greatly affect your health and increases the risk of life threatening conditions such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, start by making small, but healthy changes to what you eat, and try to become more active.
7. Cut down on salt.
Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Avoid foods like crisps, salted nuts, canned and packet soups and sauces, baked beans and canned vegetables, pork pies, pizzas and ready meals. Many breakfast cereals and breads that appear healthy also contain high levels of salt, so keep your eye on these too.
8. Learn to manage your stress levels.
If you find things are getting on top of you, you may fail to eat properly, smoke and drink too much and this may increase your risk of a heart attack.
9. Check your family history.
If a close relative is at risk of developing coronary heart disease from smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, obesity and diabetes, then you could be at risk too.
10: and finally- make your diet Heart Healthy
Watch your diet. A healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and can also help increase the chances of survival after a heart attack. You should try to have a balanced diet, containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. Avoid foods like biscuits, cakes, pastries and dairy products that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
Being label aware – checking salt content, fat content of products and make healthy choices to eat foods that are nutritionally balanced and low in bad fats will help to keep your heart healthy
I hope that this blog has inspired you to go and get your heart health checked?
Keep active, keep ‘Heart Healthy’.
Nuriss Skincare and Wellness Centre London, offer Health Checks and Heart Disease Screening. Book an appointment with our Lead Doctor for more advice. www.nuriss.co.uk