Make this Valentine’s month an opportunity to focus on your own heart.
According to cardiologists, heart attacks and strokes remain a major cause of early death, with high cholesterol being a main factor.
IDENTIFY AND MANAGE YOUR RISK FACTORS
Most of us are aware of the impact our lifestyle has on our health and longevity and yet many chose to ignore the dangers, until it’s too late.
If you stop for a moment and really understand the risk factors that are relevant to you, it is possible to make positive changes that can prolong your life.
What risk factors?
Some of the main risk factors associated with heart disease include –
A major contributor to heart disease.
Smoking makes the walls of your arteries sticky from the chemicals, so fatty materials can stick to them. The arteries carry blood to your heart and to your brain and if they get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack and stroke.
The good news is that it’s never too late to quit smoking and increase your chances of a longer healthier life.
Poor dietary choices can shorten your life.
Eating unhealthily can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or Type 2 diabetes. All these conditions can increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.
What you choose to consume, affects how you feel and how healthy you are.
Eating the right type of foods and small amounts is one of the most important changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
We all know what we should be eating, but we often grab on the go and eat for convenience which doesn’t always mean healthy.
Planning can prompt better shopping habits when selecting what you need for healthy meals.
We all know we should be eating 5 fruit and veg portions per day and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves.
Risk to cholesterol build up also comes from too much salt and unhealthy fats in our diets. Swapping the bad fats for the good fats is a major step forward in maintaining a healthy heart.
The different types of fats are:
Monounsaturated fats / Good
Avocados, olives, olive oil, rapeseed oil. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios and spreads made from these nuts.
Polyunsaturated fats / Good
Oily fish, corn oil, sesame oil, soya oil, and spreads made from those oils. Flaxseed, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
Saturated fats / Bad
Processed meats like sausages, ham, burgers. Fatty meat. Hard cheeses including cheddar. Whole milk, cream, butter, lard, ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil.
Trans fats / Bad
Fried foods, takeaways, snacks like biscuits
Recognising and understanding what’s making you stressed is the first step to reducing your stress levels.
There are times in our lives when matters are taken out of our hands and can cause negativity and anxiety in our lives, e.g. divorce, death, loss of job, money concerns.
Whilst we can’t always change what has happened, we can be mindfully aware of how we are reacting and dealing with these events.
Don’t suffer in silence – reach out and talk with someone – sometimes you just need to get things out rather than allow them to build up inside of you.
Being overweight increases the work the heart has to do and it leads to high blood pressure and abnormal levels of fat in the blood. It’s also associated with diabetes, respiratory disease, gall bladder problems and some cancers.
Eat smaller portions of healthy food and eat more often…yes more often.
Too much alcohol can affect blood pressure and cholesterol and can cause weight gain.
Like smoking, alcohol causes damage to your arteries, creates fatty material which can block the flow of blood and oxygen and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Many turn to alcohol to manage tiredness, stress, anger, boredom or when they feel they have had a bad day. Be consciously aware of your feelings and what is happening and make other choices, e.g. meet with a friend for a cuppa, go for a walk, go to the gym or take up a new hobby.
Being physically active can keep your weight and blood pressure down to healthy levels. The American Heart Association suggests 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week and 75 minutes of rigorous exercise. Walking is a great way to start.
The good news is all of the above risk factors can be controlled by you and small changes to your daily routine can make a positive impact to your heart health.
When it comes to making a change, it’s important just to make a start. Now is always the best time.
Small changes can add up to a big difference:
You won’t see changes overnight. It may take time for some benefits to start showing, but you should soon notice an increase in energy, feel healthier and sleep better.
What are you waiting for!