West Yorkshire Harrogate Healthy Hearts

It may be an old adage, but it's absolutely true that it's never too late to change your lifestyle. Even in old age, there are huge benefits to stopping smoking, being more active, limiting your alcohol intake and eating more healthily.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your  CVD risk. Take a look at our Healthy Heart lifestyle changes advice below to learn more. 

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1. Exercise

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. 

And lots of free fitness videos on the NHS studio fitness website.


2. Smartphones 

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:

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 professional 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.

Available resources ready to be downloaded

Five things you can do to prevent high blood pressure - download this helpful blood pressure leaflet now.

I've been told I have high blood pressure? What does this mean? Download this leaflet to find out more.

Tips and advice on how to keep your heart healthy - download this leaflet now. Also available in Easy Read here.

3. Smoking

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?     

4. Alcohol

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

Eat well!

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 
  • lard
  • 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
  • avocados
  • 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:

6. Overweight?

Are you a healthy weight?

Have a look at the NHS BMI healthy weight calculator to help you decide. If you'd like help and support with losing weight why not get started with the NHS weight loss plan

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.

What's your blood pressure? Do you know your numbers? Next time you see your doctor or practice nurse, ask them to check. 

8. Stress


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.  

9. Diabetes

Beating diabetes  

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:

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