5 Ways to Improve Heart Health

Stethoscope with a cut out paper heart

Heart and circulatory diseases cause around a quarter of all deaths in the UK, that’s an average of 450 deaths each day. The heart works around the clock – and is one of the most important muscles in the body because it is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen to organs.

You can take steps to improve your heart health. Controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure have a big impact on the health of your heart, and your general health.

  1. Be active

Regular exercise and physical activity help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease because it can help to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol and body weight. Experts have found that losing just 5 – 10% of your body weight improves metabolism – which in turn helps to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol.

There are many ways to lose weight – but experts recommend you don’t lose weight too quickly, instead focus on losing 1 – 2 lbs of weight per week. When it comes to physical activity – try to incorporate exercise you enjoy. The NHS recommends that adults complete 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This could be a brisk walk for 30 minutes on 5 days of the week.

  1. Drink less alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and cause us to put on weight – both of which increase the risk of heart attacks, diabetes and strokes. Although we often see headlines about how red wine or beer can ‘improve’ heart health – there is no evidence that any type of alcohol is ‘better for your heart than another.

Drinking more than the recommended amount over a long period increases blood pressure and can weaken heart muscles (cardiomyopathy). If you do drink alcohol it is important to stay within the recommended guidelines – and to take ‘days off’ from drinking.

The NHS advises that men and women do not drink more than 14 units per week – and that drinking these units is spread over 3 or more days.

  1. Consume less saturated fats

Saturated fats are the types of fats that are found in lard, butter, fatty meats and cheese. Eating a high amount of saturated fats can raise cholesterol – which can increase the risk of heart and circulatory disease. To improve heart health, it is recommended that saturated fats are replaced with healthier fats that are found in oily fish and nuts. It is important to remember that all fats are high in calories – so even if you choose healthier fats, it’s crucial to monitor your intake to prevent weight gain.

The Mediterranean diet is associated with better heart health because generally it involves consuming vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, fish, nuts and seeds – and consuming less full-fat dairy products and butter.

If you’re looking to reduce the amount of saturated fats you consume commit to making small changes – such as consuming skimmed milk instead of whole milk or switching to light soft cheeses such as cottage cheese.

  1. Stop smoking

Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease, which is the most common type of heart and circulatory disease in the UK. If you are a smoker, quitting is the best thing you can do for your heart.

Cigarettes contain many chemicals which can lead to the walls of your arteries becoming sticky – which makes fat stick to the walls. This leads to the arteries which carry blood to your heart becoming damaged – which can cause heart attacks. Research shows that just 20 minutes after quitting smoking your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal.

  1. Quality sleep

Sleep is essential to maintaining health. Studies show that if you do not get enough sleep you may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. 6 – 8 hours of sleep per night is associated with being the optimum amount of sleep for heart health – as it contributes to overall health as sleep contributes to metabolism, blood pressure and general inflammation.

As well as helping our bodies recover from the day, sleep also helps us make better decisions – which can have an indirect effect on our health. Not sleeping enough affects the hormones which affect our appetites, so not having enough sleep can lead to us eating more and our weight increasing. A healthy weight is important to decreasing blood pressure, which helps to keep our hearts healthy.

Private health MOTs

In the UK – we’re lucky enough to be able to access the NHS, which provides free point of use medical care. If you’re worried about any aspect of your health, as a resident of the UK you can access GP services and emergency care for free. Some people in the UK choose to also have private health insurance. Those with private health insurance pay a monthly subscription, which covers all or some of the cost of private healthcare that policyholders may access.

Many private health insurance providers offer their policyholders private health assessments – which are also known as ‘medical MOTs’. Health assessments usually include non-invasive tests which provide you with an overall view of your health. Assessments often include hydration tests, BMI calculations, cholesterol tests, lung function tests, cardiovascular risk tests and blood glucose tests.

To learn more about private health insurance or how to access a private health assessment contact us today.

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