Every day, your heart beats 100,000 times and can pump about 23,000 litres of blood around your body. Believe it or not, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface on all the amazing things that the human heart can do. Provided, of course, it’s well taken care of.
The importance of maintaining your heart health is a widely discussed topic. Health organisations around the world have united their efforts to raise awareness about the health of your heart. Yes, yours. But, why all the hype?
Well, it seems that in spite of all its fantastic qualities, the human heart isn’t faring all that well. More than one in three adults have some form of cardiovascular disease and it’s ranked as the main cause of death in the UK. On a global scale, heart disease is predicted to claim 82 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) – which can be described of as the number of healthy years of life lost – by 2020.
The good news is that 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. That’s right! The power is effectively in your hands. So what can you do to keep your heart healthy and happy?
The choices you make when it comes to food can mean all the difference between being healthy or developing cardiovascular disease. Foods and drinks that contain high levels of fat, salt, sugar and alcohol can contribute to risk factors and compromise the health of your heart. When compared with an average diet, it was found that a diet low in saturated fats, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables offered a 73 percent reduction in the risk of new cardiac events such as a heart attack.
Maintaining a heart healthy diet can sometimes be a bit tricky – there’s just so much selection out there! So, as a guide, aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Choose lean cuts of meat and fish, and be sure to read the labels on food packaging and menus.
A sedentary lifestyle has been flagged as one of the major risk factors for heart and cardiovascular disease. Studies have proven that regular exercise has a great impact on other risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure because it promotes weight loss and can help to reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
So, what does it take to reap these benefits? Relax! Being physically active doesn’t mean running a marathon. When it comes to exercise, every little helps. It’s been recommended that by doing 150 minutes of physical activity over the course of a week (that’s roughly 30 minutes five times a week) you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Keeping tabs on your cholesterol and blood sugar levels are also key to keeping your heart well. Known as the silent killers, high cholesterol and blood sugar levels can directly affect your heart health. In fact, it’s been estimated that more than five million people in the UK don’t know that they have high blood pressure – putting them at even more risk of heart disease.
Knowing what levels are healthy for you and checking them regularly will put you in good standing with your heart. Just to make it that much easier, many chemists and even GP practices now offer blood pressure monitors for you to use free of charge.
There are absolutely no health benefits to smoking tobacco. None. However, there is a very long list of the havoc that smoking can impart on your health and, in particular, your heart. Smoking has been tagged as a leading cause of cardiovascular disease and can heighten your risk of heart attack, stroke and even death.
Stopping smoking is the best thing that you can do for your heart health and the risks to your heart significantly decrease soon after you stop.
Smoking tobacco is addictive and there is a process to quitting. There are many options available to you that can help – so reach out if you need support. Get in touch with your GP or local pharmacist to see what options may work best for you.
With World Heart Day coming up on 29 September, now has never been a better time to show your heart some love. However you decide to stay healthy, keep in mind all the things that you can do with that oh so amazing heart of yours.