national heart month

Check Your Heart Health This National Heart Month

National Heart Month takes place throughout February and aims to raise awareness of heart disease and what we can do to prevent it.

There are many different heart conditions such as angina, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and heart failures that are collectively known as heart disease.

People who live an unhealthy lifestyle or who have inherited certain health conditions might be at risk of developing heart disease at some point during their lives. Use the list below as a guide to find out if you could currently be at risk and what you could do to reduce the chances of developing heart disease at some point during your life.

 

High Blood Pressure

There are currently around 7 million people living with undiagnosed high blood pressure or hypertension in the UK. National Heart Month is a great time to finally make yourself put the time aside to visit your GP for a blood pressure reading. Elevated blood pressure, with a level higher than 140/90, can significantly increase your chances of developing heart disease in the future.

If your GP informs you that your blood pressure is too high, there are a number of steps you can take too reduce it, including various changes to your lifestyle. From eating a healthy balanced diet which is low in sugars and saturated fat and high in fresh fruit and vegetables, to incorporating more physical exercise into your daily routine, particularly cardio to improve your fitness.

If you’re unable to improve your high blood pressure through lifestyle choices, then a GP may recommend that you are put on medication to lower your blood pressure.

 

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is divided into two groups. There is LDL (low-density lipoproteins) which is known as bad cholesterol and HDL (high-density lipoproteins) which is known as good cholesterol. If you’re not sure of your current cholesterol level, then visit your GP during National Heart Month for a simple blood test.

Ideally a healthy total cholesterol reading would be less than 4 mmol/l, with an LDL of under 2 mmol/l and level of HDL over 1 mmol/l.

Giving up smoking and heavy drinking in favour of switching to a healthy lifestyle including cardiovascular exercise and a balanced diet should be enough to reduce a high cholesterol level.

 

Smoking

If you are a smoker, then quitting cigarettes is the single best step you can take during National Heart Month to improve your overall health. It is a frightening fact that smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack in comparison with those who have never smoked.

The great news is that once you do kick the habit then the risk to your heart health is significantly decreased. There is also a vast reduction in the likelihood that you’ll develop coronary heart disease, strokes or various types of cancer in the future.

 

Alcohol Intake

Heavy drinking has an impact on many areas of your health, but in terms of heart disease it can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, strokes and can also affect the heart muscle.

Brand new alcohol guidelines suggest that both men and women should not indulge in more than fourteen units of alcohol per week, which is the equivalent to seven glasses of wine or six pints of average strength beer. It is important to spread these units out over several days, but to leave at least two or three alcohol-free days per week.

Cutting down, or preferably cutting out alcohol altogether from your diet will reduce your chance of developing heart disease.

 

Maintain A Healthy Weight

People who are classified as being overweight or obese have an increased chance of developing heart disease. It is important to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) of between 18-25. If you are currently overweight, then use National Heart Month as a great reason to shed the pounds. This will help reduce the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes and lower both your blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for developing heart disease.

Heart disease is a scary prospect, but there are so many small steps you can take to improve your chances of avoiding this diagnosis in years to come. Start by visiting your GP for a check-up and then work towards making positive lifestyle changes such as eating healthily and exercising regularly throughout the whole of 2016.