We all know that keeping our heart healthy is important, but in practice it can be difficult to know how best to do this while managing busy work and family schedules. But with cardiovascular diseases still the number one cause of death worldwide, it’s important that we all find time to focus on our heart health. In honour of World Heart Day on 29 September, we wanted to share a few basic tips on how to keep your ‘ticker’ ticking.
1) Eat healthy
We’ve all heard the phrase you are what you eat, but getting the right nutrition is a key factor when it comes to maintaining your heart health. As well as eating a balanced diet, reducing your salt intake is particularly important for your blood pressure. In addition, you should replace the ‘bad fats’ (trans fats) in your diet, which are associated with with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, with ‘good fats’ (unsaturated fats).
Trans fats are typically found in fried and baked foods such as doughnuts and cookies, as well as in margarine and some spreads. Always check the label and try to avoid these foods where you can. Conversely eating some unsaturated fats can help reduce your risk of heart disease. These can be found in foods such as fish, avocados and nuts (e.g. almonds and hazelnuts).
2) Get some exercise
This may sound obvious, but a moderate level of physical activity is very important for your heart health. Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight which can reduce the risk of other health problems such as diabetes, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
We know it can sometimes be difficult to get to the gym, but there are simple things you can do to get some exercise throughout the day, such as opting to take the stairs or going for a short walk at lunch time. Research shows that sitting down for prolonged periods could increase your risk of heart disease, so if you work in a desk job, take time to stand up or move around every 30 minutes.
3) Don’t smoke
Easier said than done, we know. But being smoke free and avoiding second hand smoke is one of the best things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
This is because smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, forcing your heart to pump harder. It can also damage the lining of your arteries, making you more susceptible to a heart attack or stroke. If you’re having difficult giving up, try our Top Tips to quit smoking.
4) Reduce stress
While there is no direct link between stress and heart disease, there is growing evidence to suggest stress could significantly increase certain risk factors for heart problems, including angina. There are plenty of things you can do to help lower your stress levels, from practicing meditation, to going for a run, or just taking time out to listen to your favourite music. If you need some inspiration, why not read our Guide to Tai Chi or Mindfulness at Work for some tips?
5) Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for your overall health and well-being, but poor quality sleep can also increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. This risk is particularly heightened for people with sleep related disordered such as sleep apnea.
As as rule you should always aim for 7-8 hours sleep per night. If you have difficulty getting a good night's sleep, try keeping to regular sleep hours, avoiding caffeine and alcohol four hours before going to bed, and switching off your phone or TV in favour of a book in the evening. Naturally if this becomes a persistant problem, you should consult your doctor for advice.
So there you have it, five simple but effective tips to keep your heart healthy. We hope you will join us in celebrating World Heart Day by spreading the word!