This week I’m talking all about Heart Health – obviously I’m always talking about heart health but I wanted to really focus on what you can do to ensure you are reducing your risk of having future heart problems. This is particularly relevant if you have a history of heart problems in the family or if you are recovering from a recent operation or procedure.
There are so many do’s and don’ts to look after your heart so I wanted to summarise things – below are the top 5 things you should be doing to ensure your heart is in tip top condition.
Cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is the world’s biggest killer, causing over 17 million deaths a year and many of these deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.
Most people know someone or have themselves been directly affected by heart disease and a lot of times it is avoidable by changing lifestyle habits. If you’ve had heart problems in the past it’s never to late to make improvements to improve your health for the future.
Simple changes in diet by reducing your salt intake and eliminating processed foods from your diet and trying to get a couple of hours of exercise a day can make a huge difference.
A healthy diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and prevents weight gain which puts pressure on your heart, the introduction of a healthy diet also helps to prevent further worsening of existing heart disease and it’s not too late to start eating healthily.
To help prevent heart disease here are five ways to change your lifestyle and take better care of your heart.
1. Follow the Mediterranean diet
A 2013 study showed the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 30% and prevents weight gain which puts pressure on your heart, the diet also helps to prevent further worsening of existing heart disease and it’s NEVER too late to start eating healthily. Recent attention has been drawn to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet by cardiologist Aseem Malhotra who has recently filmed the ‘Cereal Killers Movie’ about his quest to find out the secret to a long life in the Mediterranean. Check it out here.
2. Drink water
Often people worry about whether they are eating enough ‘super foods’ but forget about a simple thing that’s free and easy – hydration! Is your wee almost clear – ‘straw coloured’? You should be peeing regularly and it shouldn’t be dark, smelly or orange. If it’s bright fluorescent, it may be from taking vitamins (we’ll cover that in a different post, probably titled ‘Am I weeing my vitamins down the toilet?’
Aim to drink between 1.5 and 2 litres of water a day.
You may need less if you have heart failure. Drink to thirst and to maintain a stable weight5. If your weight is going up then you may be drinking too much or need to adjust your diuretic. Chat to your cardiologist to find out what your fluid goal should be.
3. Say no to processed foods
There are lots of hidden saturated fats, sugars and salts in processed food, fast food and ready meals. Even foods that may appear ‘healthy’ traditional meals such as lasagne are usually made with cheap ingredients and are laden with salt. I would strongly advise people to check the content of the ingredients of any food they buy and start cooking from scratch together – it’s more fun too!
4. Quit smoking
Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have heart disease with all the health issues it causes it is the most important thing you can do for your heart. Try a nicotine replacement to reduce your cravings – electronic cigarettes, patches, gum or lozenges are a great help when you’re quitting.
5. Exercise more
The heart is the most important muscle and just a small amount of exercise will keep it functioning properly. Exercising for as little as ten minutes a day can make a huge difference. If you haven’t exercised for some time start out with gentle walking and build up – we should be aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.
Aim to improve in one of the above areas each week.