Poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking are the main causes of England’s high number of deaths from heart disease. Disease of the heart and blood vessels is the No 1 killer, but a healthy lifestyle will make your heart healthier. So how to help ourselves? Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease, so if you’re a smoker for your heart’s health quit smoking. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease so watch what you eat and stick to a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and sugar. Read the labels on food and drinks packaging, be aware of the calorie content and of the amount of fat, salt and sugar they contain. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals and aim for a varied five portions at least every day. Maybe add chopped fruit to breakfast cereal and include some vegetables in your pasta and curry dishes.
Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease, makes us feel good about ourselves, and releases stress. Aim to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week. All activities count, such as housework, gardening, walking or cycling to work, enough to make you puff. One way to achieve this target is to do 30 minutes of activity on five days a week, fitting it into your everyday life, where and when you can.
Watch your blood pressure, help yourself by not adding salt to your food, look out for high salt levels in ready-made foods and check food labels. Foods are high in salt if they have more than 1.5g salt (or 0.6g sodium) per 100g. Aim to eat less than 6g of salt a day – that’s about one teaspoon.
Eat fish at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna and salmon. These are an excellent source of omega-3 fats and help protect against heart disease. Be sensible with your drinking and stick to the recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the risk of serious health problems, including heart health. Try to make these changes to your diet and improve your fitness before resorting to drug treatment for heart conditions. However, seek medical advice if there is a family history of heart and blood vessel disease.