How to Have a Healthy Heart

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Keep your heart healthy with these seven simple steps.

Don’t smoke

This is the single most important thing that you can do to keep your heart healthy. Smoking doubles your risk of a heart attack. When you smoke, it damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. This can cause a heart attack, angina, or a stroke. The good news is that your chance of a heart attack starts to decrease the instant you give up smoking.

Keep moving

Exercise is crucial to keep your heart healthy. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. This is thought to be just as beneficial as 2 or 3 more intense exercise sessions a week. To start with, try a brisk walk with the dog, a cycle ride, swimming at your local pool or following a simple exercise video.

Eat well

We all know the basics: avoid too much saturated fat, eat more fibre and oily fish, eat masses of fruit and vegetables. It can be difficult to put this into practice when life is busy. Start small, perhaps by eating one more portion of vegetables every day.

Get checked out

Find out how healthy your heart is by asking the GP to check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This is a useful indicator of future health, and whether any further action needs to be taken. Exercising and eating healthily helps lower cholesterol.

Cut down on salt

Too much salt is bad for your heart as it can cause high blood pressure. Try adding less salt when you cook, and avoid ready-made meals which can be very high in salt. Ideally you shouldn’t eat more than 6 grammes of salt per day, that’s just over a teaspoon. Check the food labels in the supermarket. If something has more than 1.5g salt per 100g, then it’s high in salt.

Count those units

Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to keep track of how much you drink, but those units can add up very quickly. One unit is equivalent to 10ml of pure alcohol which takes your body about an hour to process. For example, a pint or a large glass of wine has 3 units of alcohol. A single shot of a spirit like gin contains 1 unit. Regularly drinking more than the recommended amount (not more than 14 units per week) can cause weight gain and increases your risk of a heart attack.

Manage your stress levels

Stress probably doesn’t cause heart attacks, but it may increase your risk of a heart attack if your stress levels stop you from living a healthy lifestyle. If you are stressed you’re more likely to turn to coping mechanisms like smoking, eat eating junk food and skimping on exercise. Try to identify situations at work or home which make you feel stressed, and plan ahead to deal with them.

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