With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, for many of us our thoughts will be turning to love and romance. But as well as thinking about what decadent chocolate treats we may receive (fingers crossed it’s an exquisite goodie from Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse!) or how many glasses of Wiston Estate Brut we will be quaffing in celebration of love perhaps take some time to think about your beautiful, beating heart. As Valentine’s Day is symbolised by the heart this is as good as time as any to look at the health of your heart.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the UK. There are more than 7 million people living with CVD.
Dr Annelize Meyer, Medical Director of Meyer Clinic, says: “People often think of medicine as the fix for problems or injuries. We watch and wait, and when a health conditions develops, we take action. But this sit-and-wait approach is now being viewed by many leading medical experts as outdated.
“Historically, when treating heart disease doctors and patients have monitored slow-growing risk factors such as blood sugar and cholesterol and waited until the levels are seen as ‘bad’ or ‘too high’. Instead, we should proactively move toward optimal health, trying to preserve and maintain good health rather than allowing it to decline before stepping in to then try to fix it.”
The good news is making heart-healthy lifestyle choices and taking control of cardiovascular risk factors can help or slow the progression of heart disease. Everyday decisions are important to cardiovascular health and Valentine’s Day is a good time to give yourself the gift of lifestyle changes that will benefit you through the year.
Here are a few Heart-Healthy tips and pointers … our Valentine’s Day gift to you.
- Stay active: Regular, daily physical activity can lower your risk of heart disease. Physical activity helps you control your weight and reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Ideally, aim to get your heart rate up with at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week. However, any movement will be good for your heart so keep moving and stay active. Every step counts!
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: A healthy diet can help protect your heart, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Limit your consumption of red meat, sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. A heart-healthy eating plan includes vegetables and fruits; beans or other legumes; lean meats and fish; whole grains and healthy fats, such as olive oil.
- Stop smoking: One of the best things you can do for your heart is to stop smoking. Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in your blood, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate because your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen to your body and brain. Once you stop smoking, your odds of developing heart disease drop rapidly. After a year without cigarettes, your risk of heart disease drops to about half that of a smoker. No matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption: Regularly drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure (hypertension) puts strain on the heart muscle and can lead to CVD, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) advise it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. Or cut it out altogether!
- Keep your weight under control: Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of developing heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet with portion control and regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce stress: Stress is a strong risk factor for heart disease, especially for women. Some people cope with stress in unhealthy ways such as overeating, drinking or smoking. Finding alternative ways to manage stress such as physical activity, relaxation exercises or meditation can help improve your health. Try meditation (we like to follow Deepak Chopra), yoga, or simply being silent and still for 10 minutes a day. Be mindful of stress in your life and take extra care of your heart.
- Get a good night’s sleep: Our body repairs itself while we are at sleep; this is critical time for cell renewal. People who don’t get enough sleep often have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. Most adults need at least seven hours’ of sleep each night. Make sleep a priority in your life. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Switch off your TV and mobile devices at least an hour before going to bed. Charge devices at charging points outside of the bedroom. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, so it’s easier to sleep.
- Go for regular health screenings: It’s important to know your cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure as these can indicate the health of your heart. An increase in any of these levels and numbers can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action. Prevention is better than cure.
If you have any concerns about your heart or other health issues, why not book in for a consultation with Meyer Clinic’s Dr Annelize Meyer? Or if you would like some advice on following a healthy eating plan book a session with our Nutritional Therapist Dominique Ludwig.