The heart is one of the most important organs in the human body, and it works very hard. Throughout our lifetime, our heart continuously pumps blood in blood vessels to every organ in our bodies, delivering nutrients and oxygen to all areas, while carrying away carbon dioxide and toxic waste products.
So why, if our hearts are so vital to keeping us healthy and alive, do we so often neglect them? We at London Doctors Clinic investigate! In the western world, heart disease (an umbrella term for conditions which cause narrowing or complete blockage of blood vessels which carry blood too and from the heart) is the biggest killer of men, but also the top killer of women. Keeping this in mind, it is crucial that we educate ourselves on how we take care of our hearts, and luckily there are a lot of simple tips we can follow to ensure we live long, fulfilled, and heart healthy lives.
Tips For A Healthy Heart
Here are some helpful heart disease prevention tips for you to try out:
1. Stop Smoking!
Smoking (or tobacco use of any kind) is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of heart disease, so giving up is one of the best things you can do for your heart (and your overall health).
Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart muscle and blood vessels, resulting in a build-up of plaque within these vessels (atherosclerosis). This narrows the vessels, which can ultimately lead to heart attack. A gas called carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, which forces your heart to pump harder to deliver sufficient oxygen to your body, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate. An overworked heart (much like an overworked person) becomes sick, and tired.
Stopping smoking is one of the simplest ways to improve your heart health, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease
2. Dust Off Those Trainers: Get Active
Lack of physical activity is a growing problem in our modern society, and unfortunately it is also one of the major factors affecting your likelihood of developing heart disease.
If you are currently inactive, the thought of exercising might sound daunting, but you don’t have to become a star athlete to benefit your heart health! Aiming to exercise for 30 minutes, five times a week is enough to start with, and you can even start by just walking, increasing the pace as you feel yourself getting fitter and stronger.
Any activity to raise heart rate can count as cardiovascular activity, from running, swimming, playing a sport, or even dancing!
We live in a society where fast food surrounds us, and it seems as though everywhere we turn we are supported and encouraged to make poor food choices. You can take back control of your diet by:
- Aiming to cook and eat at home as much as possible:
- This includes taking a packed lunch or snacks to take with you when you go out
- This is a no-brainer; it allows you to exercise control over the ingredients and cooking methods, ensuring that you are not adding too much salt or fat to your meals
- Eat the rainbow!
- You heart will thank you if you include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and salads in your diet. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal, and more than just your heart will reap the benefits
- Eat good fats:
- Surprisingly, fat is not always the enemy! There are lots of foods to choose from which contain healthy fats from plant based sources – such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil – which help your heart by lowering your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol
- Including the wholegrain versions of traditionally white foods (such as brown pasta, rice and grainy breads) will provide you with energy and fibre, while helping to keep your weight under control. Just remember to watch that portion size, as it is very easy to overestimate a single portion amount of these foods!
Fruit and vegetables are a great source of nutrients – there are more than enough to choose from! The more varied the intake, the better…
There are lots of diet tips you can use to keep your heart happy, and we have discussed only a few here. These are some of the main ones to start with, but if you would like more information you can visit your GP, who will be able to advise you further.
4. Mind your mood:
Stress, lack of sleep and emotional suffering are something that all of us have felt at some point. Each of these has been linked with harmful physical changes in our bodies, and a higher incidence of heart disease. Although we may not be able to avoid these states all the time, we can learn to manage them in a way that reduces their harmful consequences for our health.
Attention to stress management and adoption of healthy habits around bedtime can greatly reduce the stress on our hearts, and boost our moods to boot! Try exercising, talking to a trusted loved one, relaxation techniques, and learning to say no; these habits can change how we cope with the demands of modern life.
5. Know your numbers:
Your GP can act as a huge source of information, support and advice when it comes to keeping your heart happy. Your Doctor can check and record your Body Mass Index (BMI – your weight in relation to your height), measure your cholesterol, your take your blood pressure, do a blood glucose test (the amount of sugar in your blood) and the overall functioning of your heart. Your GP can also arrange an Electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart’s electrical activity.
Do you know your waist circumference? How about your BMI? Maybe you should! After all, the numbers don’t lie…
This helps you to take an active role in the management of your own health – you will be aware of what the healthy ranges for these numbers are, and educated on how to keep these numbers within the acceptable ranges. You can also track (and take action) if these numbers change for the worse. In many cases, knowing these numbers can simply offer you reassurance that the efforts you are making are working in your favour!
A full discussion of all the things you can do to keep your heart well is beyond the scope of this article, but we have certainly touched on the main measures you can take to ensure continued health and quality of life. If you need any more advice or information on heart health, book in for an affordable private GP appointment at any private clinic of our eight central London locations!
By Melissa Dillon