Healthy Heart Tips
3 Things You Can Do Today to Have a Healthier Heart.
1 – Stop Smoking!
Seriously, if you smoke, stop. We know you’ve heard all the risks before and the effect it has on your blood pressure, cholesterol etc, but it’s still worth reinforcing. The British Heart Foundation lists 4 ways that smoking damages your heart;
- Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.
- The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs.
- The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder.
- Your blood is more likely to clot, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
- Remember an E-cigarette still releases nicotine, so even though they aren’t seen as being as bad as cigarettes they still carry some risk.
If you quit, there are immediate benefits as well as long term ones, click here for a full list.
2 – Move around on a regular basis!
Seems easy, and frankly, it is! According to the NHS guidelines all you need to do for your heart to benefit from exercise is 20 minutes per day of fast walking. If you think you haven’t got time bear in mind that the average British person spends 1 hour a day on social media, and with today’s smartphones you can do that while you are exercising!
Moving about affects the heart in many positive ways, it makes it grow and become a more powerful pump to get the blood around your body, the repeated increase in pressure when you exercise also makes the main arteries stretch slightly, making them wider resulting in easier blood flow. Two very cool ways exercise improves your heart function is by your breathing and the muscles in your calves. When you breathe in, the increased pressure in your lungs helps pump out the blood, easing the workload on the pump (a bit like giving it a squeeze), when you exhale the reduced pressure causes it to expand helping it refill. So heavy breathing (however you want to do it) helps your heart pump. Also when you walk or run you have to get a lot of blood to a lot of places fast, but to keep the blood circulating it needs to get back to the heart, this is where your calf muscles come in. As you exercise your calf muscles exert a squeezing action on the blood vessels, creating pressure and driving the blood back to the heart to be re-oxygenised.
3 – Know Your Risk Level!
Information is power, you can’t make an informed and decisive change in your lifestyle until you know what you are doing it for, there are several risk factors that determine your likelihood of having heart disease, these include;
- Age – the older you are, the greater the risk
- Gender – Men tend to be a more risk earlier, but women catch up after the menopause
- Family History – If someone in your family has had heart problems before they were 55 then you may have an increased risk.
- High Blood Pressure – The higher the pressure the greater the risk and the harder your heart has to work.
- High Cholesterol – Usually a result of dietary factors, see here for a good guide to why cholesterol is important.
- A high ‘waist/hip ratio’ -. This is a good measure to see if your body composition or your weight could be a risk factor for heart disease, a measurement over 1.0 in men or 0.85 in women may mean you have an increased risk.
If you think you may be at risk of heart disease, get a full medical check as soon as possible so you can start taking action!