Looking after your heart is essential. In fact, each year in the UK, 66,000 people die from coronary heart disease (CHD), making it imperative for us to act and prioritise.
However, knowing how to improve heart health may not be common knowledge.
If you are looking for ways to lower your risk of developing a heart condition or just want to prioritise your wellbeing – we have created a list of tips for you to add into your everyday routine.
Why Heart Health is Important
To put it simply, your heart is central to your overall health. It is vitally responsible for many reactions in your body – the most important being supplying oxygen around and supporting your immune system. It also plays a crucial role in removing carbon dioxide and waste products.
Poor heart health can have a huge impact on the body, including the following symptoms of heart disease:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
How to Check Heart Health
If you are concerned about your heart, we recommend seeking advice from a professional who can run thorough tests like an echocardiogram (ECG). This is an electrical scan that records the activity of your heart and identifies if there are any issues.
However, if you want to check your heart health at home, taking your pulse may be a good place to start.
To do this, either place your index and middle finger on your inner wrist, just below the thumb or on the side of your neck, underneath your jaw. You should feel a beat against your fingers, but if not, just readjust or apply light pressure.
Once you have identified your pulse, count the number of times you feel it in 10 seconds and multiply by six to find out your resting heart rate for one minute.
Although your heart rate can be dependent on age and overall health, research has found that the normal resting beats per minute (bpm) is between 60 and 100 bpm.
How to Improve Heart Health
Now you know the importance of looking after your heart and how to check it at home, here are some lifestyle changes for you to make that’ll help improve your heart health.
1. Cut Down on Alcohol
According to studies, drinking too much alcohol may cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure and potential damage to the heart muscle.
Although it is regularly discussed that red wine may be beneficial for your heart, your consumption should be moderate and not exceed 14 units per week.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet is recommended to optimise your overall health.
But when it comes to improving your heart, you need to do more than just ensure you’re maintaining a healthy diet – you should also keep an eye on the following:
According to the NHS, excess salt intake may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke. It is recommended that you don’t consume more than six grams per day.
There are two types of fats – saturated and unsaturated. When planning your balanced diet, strive to avoid saturated fats where possible, as they may cause high cholesterol levels limit saturated fats where possible as they may cause high cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, can be helpful to your health when consumed in moderation.
To ensure you know the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, we’ve put together a list of foods for guidance:
- Nuts Seeds
- Oily fish
Although too much sugar in your diet is not directly linked to type 2 diabetes, it can lead to weight gain, which can put you at a higher risk of developing the condition. As a result, this may increase your chances of developing CHD.
The recommended daily amount of sugar for an adult is 30g, but be mindful that some foods have higher sugar content than others. For example, one medium apple contains 19 grams of sugar, whereas a bag of sweets typically contains 47 grams.
3. Stay Active
Ensuring you stay active is another great way to support your heart health – it is a muscle, after all.
You want to aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. Whether that is walking, running, yoga or Pilates – staying active with whatever form of physical activity you enjoy may help to maintain your heart health.
If 150 minutes of exercise each week sounds daunting, you can break it down into smaller chunks according to your ability. For example, a brisk, 15-minute walk twice a day will soon add up!
4. Introduce Omega-3 into Your Routine
Usually associated with brain health, omega-3 can also contribute to heart health. Fish oil works to relax the blood vessels and reduce blood pressure, which can help support blood flow and decrease the risks of heart and circulatory disease.
Although our bodies can’t make omega-3 on their own, there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into your diet, such as oily fish like mackerel, tuna and sardines. But, if you’re not a fan of fish or would rather have a quicker way to add them into your routine, you can try omega-3 supplements.
We hope this guide has helped you understand how to look after your heart. If you’re looking for more ways to prioritise your health and wellbeing, we have multiple guides for you to discover on our blog.