Our heart is one of the most important organs in our body, so keeping it healthy is essential to our wellbeing. As we get older the condition of our heart can become more vulnerable, requiring greater care to be taken in order to keep it working as it should. Of course, this isn’t always easy – and not always much fun – but making the right lifestyle changes can provide enormous benefits to keeping your heart healthy. With that in mind, here are five tips to help you do just that
1. Keep Your Weight Healthy
Maintaining a healthy weight is really the overriding goal of many of the tips we’ll cover later on, but it’s importance to keeping your heart healthy makes it worth mentioning separately. Excess weight puts you heart at higher risk of multiple heart related illness. High blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, cardiac arrest, and angina are all more likely if you are overweight or obese. The excess visceral fat – fat around the organs – and additional body mass makes your heart work much harder than it should. Additionally, the arteries become too narrow, restricting blood flow.
2. Stay Active
Exercise is essential to keeping your heart healthy and strong. Moderate aerobic exercise will help get your heart rate up and, like any muscle in the body, using it will improve its efficiency. However, it’s important to not over exert your heart if you have underlying conditions, such as angina. The ‘moderate’ intensity is enough to get your heart pumping without putting you at risk of chest pains or something more serious, such as a heart attack. If you have low physical fitness you can start with activities like swimming or brisk walking and potentially moving to jogging or cycling.
3. Eat Right to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Your diet is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy heart and there are various areas of it that can be improved. Firstly, getting your five a day will provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre. This will help lower the risk of heart disease. It helps to mix fruit and veg into dishes and you can also get fibre from things such as wholegrain foods and potato skins. It’s also important to get enough omega-3, which can be obtained through eating oily fish regularly during the week. Finally, watching your salt intake – by not adding extra salt – is essential as too much can increase blood pressure.
4. Lower Alcohol Intake
The amount of alcohol you drink can have a big impact on keeping your heart healthy. Just like the rest of your diet alcohol contains calories and can therefore increase risk of obesity. It can also affect blood pressure and the heart muscle itself. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to go teetotal, but staying within the recommended limits of 14 units a week for both men and women will help greatly. The negative impact that alcohol can have on the heart can happen whether you spread your units out or drink them all at once, so you can’t ‘cheat’ your away around it.
5. Cut Out the Cigarettes
If you’re a smoker you may already be aware of the damage that it can do to the heart, but the negative impact in can have makes it worth mentioning again. Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease and risk of heart attack is much higher. Giving up the habit isn’t easy but doing so can cut your risk of heart attack by half in just the first year of cutting out the cigarettes. For help and advice about quitting smoking speak to your GP about utilising the stop smoking services offered by the NHS. If you find a way to quit it can drastically transform your overall health for the better.