Maintaining good heart health

The heart is one of the key organs in the human body and needs to to kept in the best condition possible for as long as possible in order to help live a long and healthy life.

Avoiding or reducing the chance of developing cardiovascular disease is of course one of the main reasons to look after your heart. However, there are many other reasons as to why you should want to keep your heart healthy. One being that a strong heart can help fight against high cholesterol and blood pressure. A high cholesterol can not only lead to heart disease but according to heartuk.org.uk can also lead to angina, heart attacks, strokes, vascular dementia and peripheral arterial disease (PAD), so maintaining a suitable cholesterol level is very important.

Maintaining a healthy heart has not only been linked with decreasing the likelihood of developing feelings of depression but can also help in reducing the chances of development of dementia. If you make poor lifestyle choices (e.g. smoking or adopting a high fat diet), your blood vessels can become narrower and could lead to a smaller volume of blood pumped reaching the brain. Poor blood flow to the brain will hinder it's ability to function at its maximum capacity, this can lead to symptoms associated with dementia such as memory loss. It is important to remember that the body is a collection of organs and systems working together and if one is neglected it can have a profound impact on others by making them work harder.

Looking after your heart:

Your current lifestyle choices will play a big part in keeping your heart in good condition and help decrease the risk of developing certain diseases. Changing small aspects of your life will, overtime, make a large impact on the overall quality of your heart.

Follow a healthy diet and use correct supplements:
Try to consume a well rounded, balanced diet with around 4-6 helpings of fruits and vegetables a day. It has been suggested that diets high in fruits and vegetables as well as lean meat can have the biggest benefits for those already at risk of developing heart related conditions. By including more nutritious meals in your diet and reducing/removing unhealthy fats you can better power the heart by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reducing body weight, especially if you live an inactive lifestyle. Consider limiting your salt and alcohol intake as well to gain further benefits of changing your diet.

Also, as we age our body handles the food we eat differently meaning we may struggle to absorb all the nutrients in a meal. The body may also begin to have difficultly producing or efficiently using certain chemicals, vitamins and minerals needed to keep the body working at its optimal level. Due to the tendency for older people to exercise less or with lower intensity, the body requires less food. A combination of these factors can lead to supplements being needed to top off any missing micro nutrients not absorbed from food sources.

Keeping the rest of your body in good shape will help keep the heart from needing to constantly work overtime in order to compensate for issues in other regions off your body. A few key supplements that should be taken are vitamin D, omega-3 and calcium.

Vitamin D:
Receiving the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D can be achieve by spending time outside in the sun, however in England this is not always the most enjoyable way to get vitamin D into the body.
Luckily vitamin D can also be found in a range of food sources. These include meat, fish, eggs and mushrooms to name but a few. Vitamin D deficiency in the UK is increasing and this causes a range of health issues including an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, broken bones and limiting movement due to the weakening of bone.

Omega-3 can be found in oily fish and is a fatty acid and it has been suggested to aid in reducing the symptoms of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis as well as improving immune function and slowing memory loss. It is also associated with supporting cardiovascular health which is key due to the fact that cardiovascular exercise tends to fall by the wayside as we age. Moreover, there is a successful history of fish oils helping counter eye and skin irritation caused by dryness.

Calcium supplements are an essential for elderly people as calcium is the main contributor to bone strength and support. Calcium when given to elderly people is used to help prevent bone decay. Weaker and more brittle bones become higher risk for breaks and fractures which can cause serious discomfort and stress as well. Dairy products are the most common source calcium however can be picked up in a supplement form for those with dietary constraints.

Exercise regularly:
Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week is what the NHS recommends to people as a minimum to live a healthier lifestyle. Not only does it help grow a stronger heart but regular exercise can also help with lowering blood pressure, building other muscles in the body, lowering stress and inflammation as well as encouraging other positive lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking.

Avoid smoking - and smokers:
Smoking is one of the leading causes for developing cardiovascular disease, as is being exposed to second-hand smoke. Smoking will increase blood pressure and heart rate, reduce the volume of blood reaching the heart due to narrowing of the blood vessels and increases the likelihood of blood clots forming. Smoking around children is highly advised against as the second-hand smoke can cause a plethora of health issues for them as well as increasing the chances of them picking up smoking as they grow older.

If you would like help quitting be sure to check out the online platforms to help start and maintain your journey.

Get check ups from your doctor yearly:
If you have any new symptoms that concern you then you should book an appointment with your GP.

Symptoms you should especially look out for are:

- Chest pains

- Sudden change in exercise tolerance

- Breathlessness

- Heart palpitations

- Swelling in legs

- Dizziness

By checking in with your GP on a regular basis it puts you in a stronger position to deal with any potential heart problems as the early stages of a issue may be found, allowing you more time to adjust your lifestyle to reduce the risk of it worsening. Your doctor may also be able to provide you with recommendations or a customised plan to help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and other factors that negatively impact heart health.


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