Healthy heart

Tips for a healthy heart

Looking after your heart is the most important thing you can do for yourself both now and in the future

The potential for heart disease as you get older and other related conditions can be lessened with a few simple checks and changes.

Having your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked are easy starting points and your GP or nurse can do this for you. Kits are also available to buy so it’s worth paying a visit to a pharmacy to find out more.

Benenden Healthare, which provides private healthcare, has plenty of advice to ensure you keep your heart healthy.

Heart Disease

Risk factors for coronary heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, being overweight or obese, and being physically inactive. Hereditary and ethnic factors can increase your risk too so it’s worth digging in to your family history to find out more.

Giving up smoking is one major thing you can do for your heart. If your cholesterol is high then simple changes such as eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting down on cholesterol-packed food like cheese is a great starting point.

More exercise will also help. Walking is probably the best way to improve your physical health. It’s free and a brisk walk each day can help you burn calories, build stamina and improve your heart. Just 10 minutes can have a major effect so building walking into your daily routine is the simplest way to help your heart.

If you do experience abnormal chest pain, numbness in your arms or legs, or pain in your neck, jaw or throat it could be that your blood vessels in and around your heart are becoming blocked or diseased, so it is recommended to visit a hospital immediately.

Monitoring abnormal heart rhythms

Abnormal heart rhythms can mean an irregular, slow or a fast heartbeat and can lead to blood clots, strokes or heart attacks. Symptoms include dizziness, palpitations, breathlessness, fatigue and losing consciousness. If you are experiencing these speak to your GP, as you may need a heart tracing to assess your heart rate and rhythm.

Treatments can include medication, or more invasive procedures such as cardioversion (a treatment that uses a therapeutic doses of electrical current aiming to restore a normal heart rhythm) or a catheter ablation (a procedure to rectify the arrhythmia by passing tiny tubes through the heart’s blood vessels to pinpoint the problem, then destroy the area that is causing the issue). Other procedures include inserting a device to regulate the heartbeat, such as a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Identifying heart failure

More than half a million people in the UK live with heart failure – when your heart isn’t pumping blood around the body as effectively as it should.

Key symptoms include shortness of breath, swollen feet, ankles, stomach and the lower back area – as well as feeling very tired or weak.

The causes are high blood pressure, a heart attack or a disease of the heart muscle known as cardiomyopathy.

Recovering

The mainstay of heart failure treatments are a combination of medication and healthy lifestyle changes. In some cases, a device may be placed in your chest to control your heart rhythm.

Adopting a healthy balanced diet, doing gentle exercise and ensuring you are smoke free can reduce your risk of becoming seriously unwell. Seeing a medical professional will enable a tailored package of medications and treatment options to be offered and discussed.

Long-term changes

Lifestyle choices can have a big impact on how likely you are to develop heart disease.

Reducing your intake of salt is key in keeping your blood vessels and heart healthy. One simple method to immediately reduce salt intake is to stop adding it to any food as you cook or eat. Different herbs and spices can be used as a replacement for salt in recipes. For example, curry powder can add flavour and a healthy kick to your meal.

Low-impact exercise is also a great way to keep your heart healthy during the recovery process as it isn’t as high-intensity as say, aerobics, yet it still protects the body from heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity and its related diseases, including diabetes.

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