LOOK AFTER YOUR HEART...
30 mins exercise a day keeps your heart healthy
The best way of maintaining a healthy weight – and reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure - is to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise.
That means around 30 minutes of physical exercise on five or more days a week – things like fast walking, riding a bike, mowing the lawn, hiking and much more.
Regular exercise makes your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lowers your cholesterol level, and keeps your blood pressure at a healthy level.
If you're doing no exercise now, start out slow. Even 10 minutes at a time may offer some health benefits. Studies show that people who have achieved even a moderate level of fitness are much less likely to die early than those with a low fitness level.
There's lots of information about building up and maintaining your fitness on the “live well” pages at NHS Choices.
Let your smartphone do the talking
There are lots of helpful tools you can download on your smartphone to help make some changes to your lifestyle, including apps to:
- check your daily calorie intake
- calculate and track your BMI and healthy weight
- help you to get fit with the couch to 5k running plan
- achieve a healthy weight with the help of MyFitnessPal
- help you lose weight
- encourage you to build strength and flexibility
- assess your fitness
- check if you're at risk from Type 2 Diabetes
- help to manage the daily routine of logging levels such as blood glucose, carbohydrates and calories with the diabetes tracker
- manage stress
- help you keep a drinks diary and get feedback on your drinking
- go smoke-free
MECC Link provides clear signposting to local and national services on a full range of health and wellbeing related topics. If you're a health or social care professional you can find out more about MECC Link, which is part of Making Every Contact Count, on our professionals' page.
Have a look at the NHS Choices health apps library to find more safe and tested apps that will help you manage your health.
You may also want to look at ORCHA, a company that works with healthcare providers and specialises in health app evaluation. Their database has links to thousands of health apps, which you can search either by category or keyword.
Time to quit!
Giving up smoking is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your heart health. That's because people who smoke are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who don't smoke. Your local Stop Smoking Service will help you quit. It's free and easy to use. You can also download this free NHS stop smoking app. In next to no time you'll feel the health and financial benefits of stopping smoking, including:
- reducing the risk of developing illnesses and death caused by cancer, heart and lung disease - 90% of all cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking
- getting rid of the nicotine in your body - after stopping smoking for 48 hours there's none left, which will make a huge difference to your sense of smell and taste
- improved fitness levels making it easier to run or play with your children, family of friends
- saving money - on average most people who quit save around £250 a month, that's a saving of nearly £3,000 a year. Find out how much you could save with the NHS Smokefree cost calculator.
Some tips to help you quit:
- write down all the reasons you want to stop smoking and stick them on the fridge to help you stay motivated
- keep yourself busy
- talk to your friends, family and workmates as support from them is essential - why not quit together to help keep each other motivated?
When a sociable tipple becomes a health risk
Do you know how much you're drinking? Keep a drinks diary for a week to help you find out. You might be surprised at what you discover!
Drinking more than the recommended units of alcohol can have a harmful effect on your heart and on your health generally. It can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, heart failure, as well as stroke, liver problems and some cancers. Find out more about managing the amount of alcohol you drink at NHS Choices.
If you think you may have a problem with the amount of alcohol you drink talk to your GP or practice nurse, or contact alcohol addiction services in your local area.
5. Fatty Foods
There's lots of ways you can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. We recommend a healthy, balanced, high fibre diet, which incudes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains.
Too much salt will increase your blood pressure, so it's best to limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than a teaspoon (6g) a day.
There are two types of fat - saturated and unsaturated. You should avoid foods containing saturated fats because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. Foods high in saturated fats include:
- meat pies, sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- butter or cream
- ghee - a type of butter often used in Indian cooking
- hard cheese
- cakes and biscuits
- foods that contain coconut or palm oil
But a balanced diet should still include unsaturated fats, which increase levels of good cholesterol and help reduce blockages in your arteries. Foods high in unsaturated fats include:
- oily fish
- nuts and seeds
- sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils
You should also try to avoid too much sugar in your diet as this can increase your chances of developing diabetes, which is proven to dramatically increase your chances of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). Read more about:
Are you a healthy weight?
7. Blood pressure
Know your numbers
Having healthy blood pressure is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of developing serious problems such as heart attacks and stroke.
High blood pressure is one of the most common conditions in this country - more than one in four adults in the UK have the condition. Over 600,000 people living in West Yorkshire and Harrogate are affected by high blood pressure.
Stress contributes to high blood pressure, which is also a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Spotting the early signs of stress will also help prevent it getting worse and potentially causing serious complications, such as high blood pressure.
If you're struggling with stress there's lots of useful information about how to manage it at NHS Choices.
People with diabetes have a higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Diabetes makes it difficult for the body to control sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and cause a range of complications such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke and angina. If you have diabetes make sure that you have all your regular check-ups with your doctor and/or practice nurse. These include:
- measuring your blood glucose level (HbA1c), blood pressure and cholesterol level
- retinal (eye) screening
- foot and leg check
- blood and urine testing (to check kidney function)
- weight check
You can find out more information about diabetes and cardiovascular disease from: