Junk food, cigarettes and endless sitting around are part of the fabric of modern life – but they’re tearing our hearts apart.
As those precious organs beat away inside us, few people give any thought to the fact that the way we live could be damaging our hearts, and could ultimately shorten our lives.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common cause of death in under 75s in this country, and there are 124,000 heart attacks in the UK every year.
But studies suggest many heart attacks and deaths could be prevented if people adopted healthier lifestyles. That’s why this year’s World Heart Day on Thursday is asking people to take charge of their family’s heart health at home, to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) – the collective term for all diseases of the circulatory system, including strokes and heart attacks.
The World Heart Federation’s (WHF) slogan for this year’s World Heart Day on September 29 is One World, One Home, One Heart.
Kathryn Taubert, the federation’s chief science officer, explains: ‘We want to remind people that there are little things you can do at home which can make a big difference.’
Research released this week by the University of Liverpool has found that healthy eating could cut the CVD death rate by up to 50 per cent.
The study suggests that eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts (in place of starch), vegetable oils (in place of animal fats), fish and seafood, global CVD deaths could be reduced by 9.2 million.
Limiting the intake of salt and industrial trans fats could save 2.6 million of the 20 million lives lost to CVD worldwide, of which 10 million are deaths before the age of 65.
The British Heart Foundation says that if you stop smoking, after a year, the risk of having a heart attack reduces by half, compared to that of a smoker. After 15 years, the heart attack risk reduces to the same level as someone who’s never smoked.
And then there’s exercise, which helps the heart work more efficiently.
However, the fact is that most people are already aware of what to do to improve heart health – they just don’t do it.
‘People find it so hard to change behaviour,’ adds Kathryn.
‘But lifestyle changes don’t have to be massive to make a difference to your cardiovascular health.’
The WHF suggests the following measures to protect all the family’s cardiovascular health at home:
n Stock your home with healthy food.
n Start the day with a piece of fruit and prepare lunches at home to ensure healthy options are taken to work or school.
n Make sure every evening meal contains at least two servings of vegetables per person.
n Ban smoking from your home.
n Limit everyone’s time spent watching TV to less than two hours per day.
n Organise outdoor activities for the family, such as cycling or hiking trips, or simply playing in the garden.
n When possible, instead of using the car, take your bike or walk from home.
n Have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index (BMI) measured by a healthcare professional.
n Once you know your overall cardiovascular disease risk, develop an action plan to improve your heart health, and keep it clearly visible in your home as a reminder.
For more information on World Heart Day, visit worldheartday.org, and for more details on heart health, visit bhf.org.uk