Look after your heart to stay happy and healthy

A healthy diet is good for your heart
A healthy diet is good for your heart

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Last week’s World Heart Day aimed to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease and give advice on having a healthy heart.

Statistics from the British Heart Foundation show that cases of heart disease have decreased over the last three decades.

This is attributed to lifestyles becoming healthier and fewer people smoking.

If you have a family history of heart disease, you may have a higher risk of developing problems.

Also, older people are more at risk of developing the condition.

Anyone over the age of 40 can receive a free heart health assessment (contact your GP surgery for more information).

Decrease your chance of having heart problems by making these small alterations to your lifestyle.

· Eat well. Following a healthy diet is an easy but effective way to decrease the risk of heart disease.

Eating a well balanced diet will help to keep your whole body, including your heart, healthy.

Have plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and fish (oily fish is particularly good for the heart).

· Keeping to a healthy weight is also important, but it is particularly significant in avoiding high cholesterol levels, which can be a contributing factor to vascular problems.

· Avoid eating too much salt. Excessive amounts of salt can lead to high blood pressure which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

· Alcohol can have extremely stressful effects on the heart, so avoid drinking excessive amounts.

To find out more about drinking safely, visit drinkaware.co.uk.

Reducing your intake of saturated fat is also particularly important.

Try following these tips to limit the levels of fat in your diet:

· Avoid eating large amounts of fatty processed foods and junk foods.

These foods contain large amounts of saturated fats which can increase blood cholesterol levels,

· When cooking, replace saturated fats such as butter, lard and ghee with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and vegetable oil.

· Remove the skin from chicken and turkey and trim the visible fat from other meats.

Meanwhile, being smoke free is also important.

Smoking is one of the major causes of heart disease and smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than people who have never smoked.

Smoking damages your heart in a number of ways – it damages the lining of the arteries and leads to a build-up of fatty matter, which makes it more difficult for the blood to pass through; it reduces the amount of oxygen that the blood can supply to your heart; nicotine stimulates a release of adrenaline that makes your heart beat faster and increases blood pressure; and it increases the risk of blood clots,

We all know that eating too many fatty foods will lead to weight gain and that can put undue pressure on our hearts.

A simple test to check that your weight is within the healthy range is to measure your waist.

Find the midway point between your hips and the bottom of your rib cage, which is usually the belly button.

Wrap a tape measure around your waist at this point.

A measurement above 94cm for men and above 80cm for women will increase the risk of health issues, including heart problems.

Ethnicity can also be a contributing factor, as some cultures are more susceptible to heart disease due to lifestyle and genetic factors.

To find out more about keeping your heart healthy, visit bhf.org.uk or nhs.uk.