Although the number has decreased in recent years, heart disease remains the biggest cause of death and disability in the UK, as well as accounting for around one-third of all deaths around the world. Fortunately, many heart issues are largely preventable through changes to your lifestyle choices and managing risk factors.
So, if your heart health has not been a priority in the past, there is no time like the present to start getting smart about your health. No matter what your age, you can benefit from our healthy lifestyle tips and sufficient physical activity to maximise your heart health.
Read our tips below on the ways you can improve your heart health and prevent the development of issues.
We all like sugary drinks and treats, but many of us fail to realise how much sugar we actually consume on a daily basis. Added sugar is found in a lot of foods, and provides a lot of calories with no nutritional value, damaging your metabolism in the long run. High sugar diets have been linked to heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, so try to cut down your sugar intake where possible. If you have a sweet tooth and find it difficult to cut sugar out all together, swap the cakes and chocolate for fresh fruit and low sugar foods.
We all like a bit of salt on our food, but if your diet is high in salt, your blood pressure could be high too. This means you have a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke. It’s not just about cutting down on the amount of salt you put on your food, but also the amount of salt that goes into your food when cooking and the amount of salt that is already in the food that you buy. The recommended daily intake of salt is 3g for children and 6g for adults – and any food with more than 1.5g of salt per 100g should be avoided.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat that you find in foods such as fatty meat, full-fat dairy, butter, lard, cheese and processed foods. High levels of saturated fat in your diet is associated with raised levels of non-HDL cholesterol, which is a cause of heart and circulatory disease. In order to improve your cholesterol, try switching to semi-skimmed milk, choose lean cuts of meat, and steam or grill your food instead of frying it.
Oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, sardines and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, and is said to be particularly important for your heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which our body needs to build brain cells and to help protect your heart. If you are vegetarian, there are other ways you can get omega-3, such as by eating spinach, wheat germ, flaxseed oils, soya, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.
Smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack compared to those who have never smoked. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, increases heart rate, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and causes an irregular heart rhythm, all of which makes your heart work harder. If you are a smoker and finding it hard to quit, there is support you can seek to help you – ask your GP about the support services available to you.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is physical activity. Exercise including a combination of aerobic exercises (such as walking, jogging, cycling and swimming) and strength training (weight and resistance) has been found to be extremely effective for heart health. They help to improve the muscles ability to draw oxygen from the blood, which reduces the pressure on the muscles in the heart to pump the blood. Not only this, but exercise (combined with a suitable diet) helps you to lose weight, which in turns helps optimise your heart health.
As well as containing essential vitamins and minerals, fruit and veg also contain potassium which helps to lower your blood pressure, so make sure you try to eat at least five portions per day. Citrus fruits, beans, mango, and sweet potato are all rich in soluble fibre which helps to lower your cholesterol, and therefore reducing your risk of heart disease. Instead of reaching for the processed foods, why not have a tasty fruit salad to crave your peckishness.
If you are worried about your heart health, why not book an appointment with a specialist? Our GPs can assess you and guide you on the lifestyle changes you need to make in order to maximise your heart health. We offer same-day private GP appointments at our clinics in Orpington and Canary Wharf.