Understanding what makes us tick is key to preventing heart disease. So, here goes… The heart is a large muscle which pumps out blood with every beat and, like any other pump, it works best against least resistance – i.e. smooth, elastic, un-clogged blood vessels.
Look after your heart as you would your car engine – apply principles such as the correct fuel (healthy diet), squeaky clean pipes (no narrow, hardened arteries) and keep it tuned (exercise) and, with heart and circulation in good running order, many major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be minimised.
And the good news is, we can lower most of the big risks by adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours by following the suggestions below..
Happy heart action
1. Check the figures
Regularly monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose (sugar) levels and body weight. High blood pressure or hypertension is a major factor for the incidence of around half of all heart disease and stroke. Being overweight increases the heart’s workload and can lead not only to hypertension but also to type 2 diabetes – both big cardiovascular disease risk factors.
2. Pump up the pace
A mere 30 minutes of activity a day can improve heart muscle health and perk up circulation. Most of us all know the mantra, ‘150 minutes a week of moderate activity’; but ANY exercise is better than none – take the stairs, walk an extra bus stop, anything! Physical inactivity increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50% and the minutes can add up, e.g. a ten minute walk to the train station five days a week already gives us 100 minutes.
3. Heart-healthy nutrition
Fuel the pump and promote free-flowing circulation with fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish and legumes. Choose low salt and low saturated fat options whenever available. Remember hydration, top up with water but ease off the alcohol – it can cause among other things weight gain, heart muscle damage and hypertension.
4. Stop smoking & avoid passive smoking
Tobacco kills. High blood pressure and narrowed arteries are just for starters. Kick the habit and the CVD risk falls dramatically. Passive smoking, too, can be harmful, try and stay clear of people smoking whenever you can.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan