My top 10 tips to help keep your heart in great shape:
The key to a healthy heart is to keep moving and being active. Aim to get your heart rate up with at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week. If you’re not used to exercise, try and build up gradually.
2. Healthy diet
Limit your consumption of red meat, sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet to increase your fibre consumption.
3. Stop smoking
Smoking not only damages your lungs, it also increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Smoking cessation dramatically reduces that risk and significantly improves overall health.
4. Control your weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, diabetes and heart rhythm abnormalities. A healthy diet with appropriate portions and regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.
5. Know your cholesterol
High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have not had your cholesterol levels checked recently, get it checked to find out if you’re at risk for heart disease and receive advice on how to lower levels.
6. Check your blood pressure
High blood pressure does not usually cause symptoms but is another risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Lifestyle modifications such as exercise and salt reduction can help, with effective medication also available to help lower levels.
7. Check for diabetes
Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes, another strong risk factor for heart disease. If you are pre-diabetic, lifestyle changes can be effective and medication is available to help treat the condition.
8. Moderate alcohol
Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can be harmful. It can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, damage to your heart muscle and other diseases such as stroke and liver problems. Men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week with regular alcohol-free days.
9. Check your pulse
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of irregular heart rhythm and can increase the risk of stroke. You can check for this by feeling your pulse at the wrist. A normal pulse should feel regular but with AF the pulse feels irregular, erratic and possibly fast with variation in strength. If your pulse feels irregular or if you’re concerned, see your GP.
10. See your doctor regularly
Regular medical check-ups are one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. Do not stop taking prescribed cardiovascular medications without first consulting your GP.