Maintaining A Healthy Heart
There’s no doubt about it, the more mindful we are about living a healthy lifestyle, the more longevity we likely have, for a strong, happy heart.
What are the main risk factors for developing Cardiovascular disease? Potential factors could go against us, such as air pollution or family history. But these aspects aren’t necessarily always easy to understand or ‘control’ so to speak. So how can we ensure our hearts are nurtured as much as possible, and what things can we do to help?
Stay active to lower stress levels
We’ve heard it a lot recently. Maintaining an active lifestyle can have positive effects on our mental well-being. But it’s never a bad thing to hear it again! Exercise is a great, natural mood booster and relieves stress. Stress, which, if on-going, could produce high-levels of cortisol – the natural hormone we release when we’re stressed. This extra cortisol could then increase blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar – all of which are possible problems for the heart. So, if we’re able to release those tensions and stresses through physical activity, we’re more likely to maintain regular blood readings. Keep calm and carry on!
Monitor body weight
Being overweight can lead to potential heart problems for several reasons. In this situation, the body requires extra blood to pump oxygen and nutrients to muscles and vital organs, making the heart work harder and resulting in higher blood pressure. Also, without getting too technical, this can actually alter the structure of our heart. Keeping a healthy body weight by eating a balanced diet and performing regular exercising is an excellent way to monitor your weight.
Ideally, a balanced diet full, including plenty of fruits and vegetables is key to keeping healthy insides. We want to focus on reducing our intake of salt and sugar as well as limiting our intake of fat. In particular, saturated or trans fats. Of course, some fats are healthy and essential for body functions, so it’s about educating ourselves on which is which! A diet with high protein is important, even more so as we age because we cannot absorb as much of it. And including a whole grain such as oats in our daily routine is never a bad choice – they protect the heart, aid weight management and actually help to unclog our arteries – so they’re win-win!! If you would like more advice on maintaining a good diet, there are lots of tips here on the NHS website.
Smoking causes a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels and makes the walls of the arteries sticky. This makes it harder for the blood to flow through the body and make those vital deliveries of oxygen and nutrients. This can potentially develop into blockages in the vessels, which lead to heart attacks. The good news is that as soon as the smoking stops, the body starts the heal itself. After just one year of quitting, the risk of experiencing a heart attack is half that of a smoker. If you would help giving up smoking, there is a lot of great advice here on the NHS website.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol, as we know, has zero nutritional value. There is no daily minimum intake required to remain healthy; however, it is OK to consume in moderation. Alcohol can weaken the heart muscle and raise blood pressure. It’s often known as being ‘empty calories’ when consumed, and because of that, it can also lead to weight gain should you enjoy it too much.
NHS guidelines suggest:
‘Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. Spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week. if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week.’
If you need any help on cutting down on your alcohol intake, there’s a lot of great advice here on the NHS website.