We’re all aware of the importance of taking good care of our heart health, but it can be difficult to know how. Whilst cardiovascular disease is one of the UK’s biggest killers, most cases are preventable which means we should all take action now to ensure we keep our hearts healthy in the future.
Eat less salt
A diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of developing heart disease or a stroke. The maximum adult daily intake is no more than 6g of salt (2.5g of salt is the equivalent of 1g of sodium). Aim for foods that contain less than 1.5g salt or 0.6g sodium per 100g whenever possible.
Cut back on sugar
There’s no evidence that sugar itself damages the heart, but eating too much can lead to weight gain, which in turn can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Keep saturated fat to a minimum
Medical experts believe saturated fat – which is found in butter, ghee, margarine, fatty meats, dairy fats and processed foods such as pies, pastries and cakes – may increase cholesterol levels (high cholesterol is a known risk factor for heart problems).
Get your five a day
Boost your intake of the mineral potassium by eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day (potassium may help lower your blood pressure). The nutrients in fruit and veg – such as vitamins, minerals and fibre – may also help keep your heart healthy and lower your cholesterol.
Eat more fish
Oily fish – such as pilchards, sardines, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna – are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to improve your cholesterol levels. Vegetarians and vegans can get omega-3 fats from spinach, wheat germ, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soya and canola oil and pumpkin seeds.
Give up smoking
Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who have never smoked, thanks to the way smoking damages your arteries, reduces your blood oxygen levels and raises your blood pressure. Ask your local LloydsPharmacy pharmacist for help with stopping smoking today.
Drink less alcohol
Too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and heart muscle damage. Stick to the current guideline for moderate alcohol drinking, which is 14 weekly units of alcohol spread evenly over at least three days (use the Drinkaware alcohol unit calculator).
Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Split the 150 minutes up any way you like (five 30-minute sessions, or divide the 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions).
Keep your weight healthy
If you’re overweight, your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol is higher than normal. If you need help with shedding the pounds, ask your LloydsPharmacy team about products that can boost your weight loss.
Being under too much pressure can make you smoke, take little to nor exercise and drink more alcohol than you should. Try to find ways to de-stress on a regular basis (whatever helps make you feel calm will work, as long as you do it regularly).
10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Heart Health
Classes and Support Groups
Use the following tips – 10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Heart Health – to embark on a heart-healthy lifestyle to fight heart disease.
1. Schedule a Yearly Checkup
Your heart is in your hands. Each year on your birthday, schedule a checkup to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications as directed.
2. Get Physical
Step, march or jog in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching your favorite TV shows. Increase your activity by five minutes each week until you’re getting a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.
If exercise and diet do not get you to your goal, ask your doctor about adding medication.
Keep your numbers in check: Get Physical
3. Drink More Water
Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. It’ll keep you hydrated and the bottle’s weight will strengthen your arms.
4. Eat Healthy
Keep packages of unhealthy food hidden. Put raw veggies and fruits in front in the refrigerator and healthy snacks in the front of the pantry, so that’s what you see first. If you grab healthy foods for a minimum of 21 times, healthy choices will become a habit.
Also, look for the American Heart Association red and white heart-check mark. This easy, reliable grocery shopping tool helps you identify foods that can be part of a sensible eating plan.
Keep your numbers in check: Diet and Nutrition
5. Control Cholesterol
Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol can lead to high blood cholesterol. To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.
Look for cookbooks that focus on heart health in your local bookstore and check out the American Heart Association’s recipe section.
6. Cut Down on Salt
To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. It may be disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or sodium citrate.
7. Quit Smoking
Try this four-step way to kick your habit:
- On Day 1, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half
- On Day 3, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again
- And on Day 5, cut your smoking in half again
- On your Quit Day… quit!
Keep your numbers in check: Quitting Smoking
8. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. To achieve steady, painless weight loss, take it easy. Each day, if you eat 200-300 calories less than you would normally consume, and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you’ll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that’s steady and painless.
9. Stay Positive
If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette, or eat a fattening meal, immediately get back on track toward re-establishing a healthy lifestyle.
10. Give Yourself Credit
o maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.
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