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Healthy Hearts for Valentine's Day

Published on 9th January 2019

During February we see adverts for Valentine’s Day everywhere and these are traditionally depicted by cupids and hearts; but what about your real, beating, living heart?  Why not use February 14th each year as a reminder to have a look at your heart health? 

Each day our hearts beat around 100,000 times, continuously pumping 8 pints of blood around our bodies.  Being proactive with your heart health will give you the best chance of continuing to enjoy good health, and there are some remarkably easy steps you can take to do this. There are certain factors which increase the risk of developing heart disease and cardiovascular disease which we should all be keeping an eye on:

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood and serves 3 main purposes; the production of hormones, building human tissue and bile production.  If you have too much cholesterol however it can increase your risk of heart disease by leaving fatty deposits in the arteries, causing them to narrow and eventually become blocked which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Weight

Being overweight can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes.  These are all risk factors for coronary heart disease, therefore weight can have a big impact on long term heart health.

Smoking

according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) smokers are 2 times more likely to have a heart attack.  Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.

Mitigating these risk factors can be a daunting prospect, but there are some simple steps we can all take to improve our heart health.  Make sure you get your minimum 5-a-day fruit and veg, cut down the amount of salt and saturated fat in your daily diet.  Take regular physical activity.  Participating in your favour sport is a great way of increasing your exercise levels, but even a brisk, 10 minute daily walk will benefit your heart.  Expensive gym memberships are really not necessary – you just need a pair of shoes!!  The key is to take regular exercise. 

Stopping smoking has an immediate impact on heart health.  After just 8 hours of stopping, the levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the blood are reduced by more than 50% and oxygen levels have returned to normal.  48 hours later and carbon monoxide will be eliminated and the lungs have started to clear mucus and other debris caused by smoking.  There are numerous ways you can get help with quitting and hypnotherapy and mindfulness can help tame those cravings.  It is never too late to stop! 

Reducing stress levels can also have a major impact on taking control of your heart health.  High levels of stress can increase the likelihood of developing unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking and eating junk foods, which of course, are all major risk factors in heart disease and cardiovascular disease.  Taking “time out” on a regular basis is a great way of keeping stress under control.  Schedule time in your diary to spend an hour meditating, reading, listening to your favour music or having a relaxing massage.  Do this on a regular basis and you will reap the benefits both physically and mentally.

The NHS offer free Health Checks to anyone aged 40-74 which are designed to spot early signs of problems such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.  Details are available from your local GP’s surgery.  You can even discover your “heart age” by filling in some simple information on the NHS website 

So, however you decide to spend Valentine’s Day in 2019 – remember to take a little time for yourself and your own heart.

 

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