Give your heart a makeover for 2018!
Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer. In this piece, Dr Arvind Vasudeva, Consultant Cardiologist, offers expert advice on how you can improve your heart health for the year ahead and beyond.
More than 400 people die every day from cardiac disease in the UK, so it is undoubtedly one of the biggest health issues facing us as a society. Whilst there are certain individual factors which contribute to the risk of someone developing heart disease, there are four key areas that each of us can work on in our daily lives to improve our heart health.
Give up smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for our health. If you smoke, your risk of having a heart attack is double that of non-smokers. If you can quit the habit, your risk falls substantially.
Living with a smoker also increases your risk, so even more reason to encourage that smoker in your life to give up once and for all!
Help is available from your GP who can put you in touch with one of the excellent NHS smoking cessation services.
Watch your weight
The start of a new year is the perfect time to review your diet and instil some new habits. However you choose to lose weight, there are a number of common issues to consider.
Drink less alcohol
If you drink alcohol, keep to the recommended daily limits. Regularly drinking more than this can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and a higher risk of heart disease.
Cut down on fat
Aim to reduce your total fat intake, especially saturated fat. Look out for low fat options in the supermarket; grill, steam or poach food rather than frying; and aim to replace saturated fat with fats found in oily fish, vegetable oils, and nuts and seeds.
Reduce your sugar intake
Sweet foods are high in calories and can lead to weight gain with no other benefit to the body. Sugar should only make up around 5% of your daily calories, as little as seven sugar cubes.
A healthy diet
Improving your diet as well as watching your calorie intake will reduce your risk of heart disease. On a daily basis you should aim to eat:
5 a day - fruit and vegetables
High fibre versions of bread, rice and pasta
Lower fat dairy
Minimal saturated fat and sugar
Aim for two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish
Excess salt can cause high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease, so reduce your intake. In particular, look at how much salt is in processed food – it can be extremely high.
Regular activity can help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and you may lose weight in the process, all of which can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Adults should aim for 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week. The exercise needs to be vigorous enough to leave you slightly out of breath. Guidance is available from various sources, but bespoke exercise programmes are also available ( www.Heartsure.co.uk )
The good news is, these suggestions are all things we can control and can change, given a strong dose of will power and commitment. If you are aged between 40 and 74, you can ask for an NHS health check at your local GP surgery. They will check all the main risk factors for heart disease and other conditions every 5 years.
For those at high risk, or with any symptoms causing concern, there are now several simple non-invasive tests to allow for rapid and early diagnosis of heart disease.
Dr Arvind Vasudeva is an experienced Consultant Cardiologist. His expertise includes the management of patients with chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness, dizziness and high blood pressure or cholesterol. To book an appointment, please call 020 8971 8026.