There's a lot of advice flying around about what makes for a healthy heart. And, while ideas may come and go, the evidence consistently points to 7 important factors that helps to keep the heart healthy.
Time Required: All your life
- Reduce fat. A certain amount of fat is good for a well balanced diet but reduce the amount of fat and the type of fat you eat. Saturated fat affects blood cholesterol levels, so try to eat less full-fat dairy products, cakes, cookies, pastries and burgers and replace with monosaturated fats such as olive and rapeseed oil, nuts and avocado pears. Polyunsaturated fats in small amount helps reduce cholesterol so oily fish (salmon, sardines) and oils like sunflower, corn and soya oil are good.
- Eat less salt. Eating too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure. A recommended level is 6g a day. Put less in cooking and try not to add any salt at the table.
- Exercise. Regular exercise improves heart function and lowers your blood pressure and blood cholesterol. 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day is recommended.
- Keep weight down. Too many calories, fatty foods and being overweight is really bad for you. It puts extra stresses and strain on your heart, makes you feel lethargic and de-energised and affects your self-image and confidence. Try eating more fruit and vegetables, less sugary foods, eat more unrefined carbohydrates such as seed breads, wholegrain cereals and pasta. So-called soluble fiber may also help reduce cholesterol so eat oats, beans and pulses such as kidney beans, peas and baked beans.
- Stop smoking. Although its down as step five, quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do. It dramatically cuts your chances of getting heart and respiratory diseases, cancer and emphysema. If you have already had a heart attack quitting will reduce the risk of a second one.
- Relax. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do. It dramatically cuts your chances of getting heart and respiratory diseases, cancer and emphysema. If you have already had a heart attack quitting will reduce the risk of a second one.
- Think lifestyle change rather than dieting. By living and eating in a healthier way you will feel better, more energised, more confident and happier.
- Monitor your health status. Keep a check on your body mass index. Get a blood pressure machine and keep an eye your blood pressure. Get yourself screened at the appropriate times.