The heart begins beating at 22 days after conception and works hard all through our lives. But our lifestyle greatly influences how well and how long our heart will function. There are approximately 2.6 million people in the UK living with Coronary Heart Disease and as many as 80% of them could be prevented.
As we get older the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases. Our blood vessels may become narrowed by fatty material from the blood. This build-up, called atheroma, reduces the blood flow and the heart is then not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. Atheroma can cause angina (chest pain or discomfort), heart attack or stroke.
So what can you do?
You should spend 2 ½ hours a week doing a moderate physical activity or 1 ¼ hour of intense exercise. That’s not a lot of time and is really effective. Often people are put off exercise because they think it means 2 hours in the gym every day. It really doesn’t. It’s about including movement in your day or week, like a brisk walk, walking the last stop, going for a longer walk on the weekends. If you think about it, just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day is already an hour!
Change your diet
Very important for overall health is a well-balanced diet. Make sure your diet is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fats and sugar. In principle, your total fat intake should be 30% or less of total energy intake and saturated fats should be 10% or less of total energy intake. So if you eat 2500 calories a day, no more than 250 calories should come from saturated fats. You should aim to eat at least seven portions of fruit and vegetables per day and eat at least two portions of fish per week, including one portion of oily fish. Products containing plant sterols and stanols (as for example, found in certain Benecol /Flora spreads) can help with lowering your total & LDL cholesterol levels if your cholesterol is a little high.
Smoking among other negative impacts on your health damages the lining of your arteries and this helps the build-up of atheroma. It’s never too late to quit. Just a year of not smoking has a significant impact on your health and risk of dying of a coronary disease.
If you would like to know your risk of heart disease and get advice from our GPs give us a call to book an appointment. During the consultation our GPs can identify risk factors, calculate heart disease risk and provide you with tailored advice based on the examination and comprehensive blood profile.