It’s Valentine’s Day and I felt it was only appropriate to share my top 10 tips to for maintaining a healthy heart. There are many steps you can take to prevent heart disease and concentrating on key lifestyle areas such as eating, exercise, smoking and drinking, and considering other factors like diabetes and stress are all great places to start. Here are my 10 top tips for a Happy Valentine heart
- Stop smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to live longer. If you are a smoker, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker. But from the moment you stop smoking, the risk of heart attack starts to reduce. With public smoking bans introduced just about everywhere, there has never been a better time to give up.
- Cut down on salt. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Avoid foods like chips, salted nuts, canned and packet soups and sauces, baked beans and canned vegetables, pork pies, pizzas and processed meals from a package. Many breakfast cereals and breads that appear healthy also contain high levels of salt, so keep your eye on these too.
- Watch your diet. A healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and can also help increase the chances of survival after a heart attack. You should try to have a balanced diet, containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish and limit you consumption of starchy foods. Avoid foods like cookies, cakes, pastries and dairy products that are high in saturated fats and most importantly, all forms of sugar.
- Monitor your alcohol. Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and also lead to weight gain. Binge drinking will increase your risk of having a heart attack, so you should aim to limit your intake to one (for women) and two units a day for men.
- Get active. The heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to keep fit so that it can pump blood efficiently round your body with each heart beat. You should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day. If this seems too daunting, start off gently and build up gradually. Keeping fit not only benefits your physical health - it improves your mental health and wellbeing too.
- Manage your weight. The number of people who are overweight in Canada and the United States is rising fast - already more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese. Carrying a lot of extra weight as fat can greatly affect your health and increases the risk of life-threatening conditions such as coronary heart disease and diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, start by making healthy changes to what you eat, and try to become more active.
- Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked by your Doctor. The higher your blood pressure, the shorter your life expectancy. People with high blood pressure run a higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. High levels of cholesterol in the blood - produced by the liver from saturated fats - can lead to fatty deposits in your coronary arteries that increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diseases that affect the circulation. You can help lower your cholesterol level by exercising and eating high-fiber foods such as porridge, beans, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
- Learn to manage your stress levels. If you find things are getting you down, you may fail to eat properly, smoke and drink too much and this will increase your risk of a heart attack.
- Make sure you can recognize the early signs of coronary heart disease. Tightness or discomfort in the chest, neck, arm or stomach which comes on when you exert yourself but goes away with rest may be the first sign of angina, which can lead to a heart attack if left untreated.
- Know your Numbers. Monitor the top ten health indicators and take the necessary action if they trend negatively. Knowledge is Power, but it takes Action to flick the Switch.
Happy Valentines and Enjoy the Ride.....Rob