Your Doctor

How Best to Protect Your Heart

HOW TO BEST PROTECT YOUR HEART IN BRITISH HEART WEEK 7TH - 15TH JUNE

On 9th June, the British Heart Foundation is encouraging us to wear red to work to raise money and awareness for life-saving research. Find out more at www.bhf.org.uk/.

Every three minutes someone has a heart attack and every day 435 people lose their lives to heart disease in the UK. More than 110 of these people will be under the age of 75, a very small number might even be children. 

But what do you actually know about the heart?

  • A baby’s first heart cells start to beat as early as four weeks into pregnancy.
  • Your heart is a muscle about the size of a fist and is in the middle of your chest tilted slightly to the left.
  • Each day, your heart beats about 100,000 times pumping about 23,000 litres (5,000 gallons) of blood around your body.
  • The right side of your heart pumps blood into your lungs and the left side pumps it back into your body. The blood delivers oxygen and nutrients all around your body, and carries away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products.
  • A woman’s heartbeat is faster than a man’s on average by almost eight beats a minute.

So how do we keep our heart healthy? Heart disease is a condition which can affect anyone but here are five main ways to make your heart healthier: 

1. Quit Smoking - Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease but if you do quit, your risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. 

2. Exercise – Regular exercise is the single most important factor in having a healthy heart. You should do about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week to reduce your risk of heart disease. This is just 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. This can be broken down into three episodes of 10 min activities.

3. Good Diet - Stick to a diet low in fats and sugars. Manage your cholesterol. We need cholesterol to be healthy but an imbalance of cholesterol in your blood can lead to heart attack or stroke. In order to balance your cholesterol, try eating healthy proteins for breakfast, eating the right fats and reducing the amount of refined flour and sugar in your diet.

4. Healthy Weight - take steps to maintain a healthy weight in order to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

5. Reduce Stress - Manage stress in your life. Excessive stress over a long period of time can cause heart attacks so it’s important that you do not overwork or overload yourself in order to protect yourself from developing heart disease.

Other top healthy heart eating tips:-

1. Drink less alcohol. Regular or high alcohol intake can lead to heart disease called cardiomyopathy. Binge drinking can cause irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Alcohol contains a lot of calories that can have a big impact on how you manage your weight. 

2. Oily fish contains huge amounts of omega-3 fats, which is a mineral that helps protect against heart disease. Salmon, sardines and tuna are all great sources of omega-3. 

3. Start eating more fibre. Experts say that 30g of fibre a day can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. You can get fibre from foods like wholemeal bread, bran, oats, potato skins, fruit and vegetables.

4. Cut down the salt in your diet (particularly sodium salts) as it can affect your blood pressure which increases your risk of heart disease. The salt we consume is usually already in the foods we buy so it’s important to check the labels. Microwave meals are notorious for having a huge amount of salt in so try to cook from scratch.

5. Eat your 5-a-day (at least)! Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day will mean your body is absorbing a good amount of vitamins and minerals which in turn can help your body fight against heart disease. There is a push towards 7-10 portions a day but we would encourage you to build this into your diet gradually.