According to the British Heart Foundation, 7.6 million people in the UK suffer with a heart or circulatory related disease and 163,000 people a year pass away due to this. Developing and maintaining a strong heart is critical in ensuring a long, healthy life. Luckily as with many other organs and muscles, changing aspects of ones lifestyle can significantly improve the condition of the muscle/organ in question.
To begin with there are certain factors that will increase the risk of developing heart disease, these are:
- Being overweight
- Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Having a high fat diet
- Not getting regular physical activity
- Having diabetes
- Family history of early heart disease
- Older than 55 years old (women) or 45 years old (men)
Of course there are things on this list that cannot be helped such as your age however, we will now go through 4 ways to improve heart health with the above mentioned risk factors in mind.
Choosing foods and drinks that reduce or remove bad ingredients such as added sugars, trans/ saturated fats and contain more vitamins, natural sugars and fats is a good start. Including less pre-made meals in your diet will allow for more control over the ingredients used in the food you eat so if possible its best to cook fresh meals as regularly as you can.
Protein rich foods (lean meats, eggs, nuts, lentils, chickpeas), whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain bread), oils with polyunsaturated/monounsaturated fats and fruits and vegetables are all foods that will benefit you if added to your daily diet.
2. Regular Physical Activity:
Getting in some regular exercise can help improve heart health in addition to a host of other physical and mental health issues including:
- Losing excess weight and improving cardiovascular fitness
- Decreasing LDL cholesterol levels (negative cholesterol) and increasing HDL cholesterol (good)
- Body better manages blood pressure
- Acts as a mental release, stress reduction and better mood
For the best results, aerobic exercises (walking, running, cycling or swimming) are best as they challenge the heart a lot more than anaerobic exercises (weight lifting) however both ways will get the heart beating faster than normal so its a personal preference. If you are unsure about what is the most suitable for you, speak to your doctor and together you can create a plan that will be manageable. Consistency is key for improving cardiovascular health so little and often is the best way to do this.
3. Stress Management and Sleep
For certain individuals high stress events can, in severe cases, cause heart attacks whilst in others they can cause an increase in blood pressure which as already mentioned is related to heart disease.
It is important to reduce stress levels in a healthy way and avoid negative coping methods like smoking, over eating and alcohol abuse. Positive coping methods include:
- Seeking out a therapist to talk through worries
- Taking up mindfulness, yoga
- Being more physically active
- Using breathing techniques to manage blood pressure
- Talking more openly with family and friends about the concerns in your life
- Following a daily routine will also help create a sense of calm as well as improve sleep quality which can help relief stress
The more of these you try the quicker you will find which ones work best for you.
4. Keeping on Top of your Heart Health
Prevention is better than cure, especially when it come to the heart. Wearing heart monitors and keeping track of any strange patterns that may be emerging can help catch any disease early on and help better the chances of being able to stop them. Scheduled appointments with a doctor can also help and other organs will effect the heart. Checking cholesterol and blood pressure will all provide valuable information that can be used to monitor your health.