Heart disease is one of the most common serious health conditions affecting our health today. According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases kill 1 in 4 people in the UK. But there are many steps we can take to help prevent heart disease. Here are a few tips to help you proactively keep your ticker in tip-top shape.
This article is designed to inform people about heart health in general. It is not designed for people diagnosed with heart disease. If you’re concerned at all about your heart, make an appointment with your GP. If you have existing heart or other disease, before starting any new exercise regime, you should talk to your doctor about what exercise is best for you.
Six ways to improve your heart health
- Say no to tobacco
This might seem obvious, but it's arguably the most important thing you can do to protect your heart. Stopping smoking is very hard for most people, but your pharmacy or GP practice will be very happy to help you. You may need to try quitting a few times before you succeed. There are lots of effective things you can buy, so make sure you ask your pharmacist for ways to deal with the cravings.
Most experts now believe that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, so it's probably another good route to quitting.
- Catch more zzzzzzzs
Not getting enough sleep increases stress. And increased stress levels have been shown to have an adverse effect on your blood pressure. Forcing your body to complete everyday activities without enough sleep is going to catch up on you eventually. It's recommended that you get at least 6-8 hours sleep per night, so make sure you're getting that regularly and your heart will thank you for it!
- Calm down
Getting enough sleep is one thing, but when we're awake our minds race - we overthink, we're constantly busy, and we don't take enough time to reduce the stress in our daily lives. Work stress is specifically linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Further research suggests that it is the degree of control workers have over their work which leads to heart disease.
Meditation, painting, playing a musical instrument, getting out in the great outdoors – whatever it is, doing something you enjoy may help to relieve some of those day-to-day stresses.
- Get moving
Speaking of serotonin, one thing we can do that releases our happy hormone is exercise. Not only is it good for you, it also makes you feel great! Even if you feel terrible halfway through, by the end of that workout, your sense of achievement will release more of that happy hormone.
Exercising, whether that be at home, in the gym or in a group fitness class, is proven to increase your cardiovascular fitness. This'll help you complete everyday activities with ease, whilst reducing blood pressure and also helping to lose a little weight. Make sure to mix up your exercise methods by doing both cardio like swimming or walking and resistance training (weights).
- Get the balance right: Food and alcohol
It can get overwhelming with all the advice out there about the latest 'wonder diet' or healthy celebrity chef. Ultimately, the goal is to maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage. The more fat we carry around with us, the more our heart is under strain - and the most dangerous type is called visceral fat. Find out how to reduce your visceral fat levels.
It's also a good idea to get the balance right when it comes to alcohol. Having a consistently high alcohol intake (14+ units per week) can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, liver problems and even certain cancers. You don't have to stop drinking altogether! But if you're a regular drinker, how about reducing what you drink during the working week? It might even help to knock back a few more glasses of water when you're on a night on the town. This article about how to manage your alcohol intake might help.
- Check your pressure
About a third of people with high blood pressure don’t know they have it – there are usually no symptoms of it at all. But longstanding high blood pressure is a big contributor to heart disease.
It’s a good idea to check your blood pressure, particularly if you are over 40 years old and if you have a strong family history of high blood pressure. You can do that at some pharmacists, some GP waiting rooms, or when the NHS calls you in for a Health Check. Or you can ask for an appointment with your practice nurse. Alternately you can buy an approved blood pressure machine and take the recording yourself at home.
Keep your health in-check with Evergreen Life
If you want to take more control of your own health and wellbeing, you can do all of this in the Evergreen Life app. We have a handy health and fitness section of our app, where you can record all sorts of personal health information. If you're taking special care of your heart, you might want to record these measurements in the app:
Take control of your health and wellbeing today and keep your heart health in mind.