9 important tips for improving your heart health according to the experts
With every heartbeat...
Following a recent national blood pressure screening, it revealed that more than one in six people were referred to their GP with irregular blood pressure. One of the main factors being that many people were not aware of how to actually look after their heart's health and the small lifestyle changes that result in a big difference to overall wellbeing.
Maria Hennessy, MPSI Clinical Governance Pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy here in Ireland, revealed to us 9 easy and important tips to help educate and inform you on the steps to a happy and healthy ticker.
1. Take control of your stress
Stress goes hand in hand with a busy lifestyle. However, it is important to keep stress levels manageable. According to Maria, studies have found that unmanaged stress levels can lead to increased blood pressure, which in time can lead to stroke and other heart complications. Stress reduction techniques such as exercise, meditation, mindfulness and yoga have all been found to work well in maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for good heart health. Women are prone to putting on weight in two key areas: around their middle (apple) and on their lower half (pear). Apple shaped women are more prone to heart disease. A healthy BMI (body mass index) is between 20 and 25. Your local pharmacy can do a BMI assessment to determine your number.
3. You are what you eat
Eating healthy is important and nowadays, it has never been easier with so many tasty, nutritious recipe resources out there. It is also essential for your diet to reduce down on saturated fat and choose low fat options where possible that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, this therefore ensures bone health is also maintained.
4. Drink in moderation
The good news is... alcohol in moderation has been found to have no negative impact on heart health. However, it is essential that we are aware the number of recommended units we are allowed per week and to stick to it. 11 standard drinks (110g pure alcohol) spread out over the week; with at least two alcohol-free days is the healthy standard to maintain.
5. Monitor your blood pressure
Knowing your blood pressure reading is essential for all women according to Maria. Certain medications such as the combined oral contraceptives can increase blood pressure, as well as menopause and other changes, therefore it is important to know your blood pressure and be aware of any changes.
6. Exercise and stay active
It is recommended that everyone should be aiming for at least 150 minutes of activity a week, in order to be heart healthy. This can be as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk, five evenings a week. Sorted.
7. Check Your cholesterol
As you get older, it is essential to monitor cholesterol levels. The total cholesterol figure is a mixture of good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). A total reading of 5 mmol/L or less has been found to be heart healthy. It is essential to discuss the breakdown of your cholesterol readings with your GP or pharmacist.
8. Smoking cessation
There are many smoking cessation treatments available which can be discussed with your pharmacist or doctor. Many women smoke to manage their weight however, this is not advised or ever encouraged and the long-term effects of smoking are detrimental to your health.
9. Manage salt intake
And lastly, in today’s world of convenience living, the intake of salt has greatly increased. This in turn causes blood pressure to rise. It is essential to become privy to reading food labels and to choose wholesome, natural food sources as much as possible to keep your heart healthy and avoid hypertension.
Remember, happy heart, happy body, happy mind.