Valentine’s Day has come and gone – and although February is the month of romance, hearts and flowers, it is also the month when in the US in particular, (as it is American Heart Month), we are reminded of the need to take care of the physical health of our hearts as well as the emotional aspects!
To help you, we’ve compiled some heart-healthy tips that will help you take care of your heart all year round. Obviously please check with your GP to see if these are appropriate for you. However, please feel free to share these with friends and family as small changes can have a big impact on heart health.
Our Top 7 Heart-Healthy Tips
1. Start The Day Right!
Many people say that they just do not have the time – but there are many health studies that demonstrate that eating breakfast helps with maintaining (or achieving), a healthy weight. This means that you need to eat breakfast – every day! Even if you cannot sit down to a healthy breakfast, perhaps some scrambled eggs served with some grated hard cheese, some chopped tomatoes and a few slices of avocado, everyone can make time for a healthy breakfast shake or even a breakfast bar that can be eaten in the car or on the journey to work.
2. Snack Your Way Through The Day!
Take healthy, low-carb snacks with you so that you do not reach for an unhealthy option from a vending machine when hunger strikes. It is easy to take some almonds, walnuts or cashews, a couple of chunks of hard cheese and some fresh vegetable sticks with you when you are away from home. Small, insulated, lunch-box bags are perfect for the task.
3. Monitor Your Intake Of Carbohydrates
The Harvard Nurses Study that monitored the diets of almost 120,000 female nurses over an eight-year period, strongly points to the increased risk for coronary heart disease of a diet high in processed carbohydrates with a rapid digestive transit. These include favourites such as refined sugar, white rice and flour as well as packs of biscuits, crisps and so on. Low carbohydrate diets such as The Atkins Diet, eliminate foods with added sugar, focusing instead on getting carbohydrates from whole foods and healthy vegetables. The less refined and processed your food is, the better it is likely to be for your heart.
4. Eat Your Healthy Fats
With all the information online and in the media about low-fat diets, it may come as a surprise to learn that some fats are actually good for your heart! You may have seen BBC2’s episode of Trust Me I Am A Doctor, screened on February 15th. If so, you will have seen the results of a study, conducted over an eight-week period, that showed, eating two portions of oily fish per week (salmon, mackerel or tuna, for example) or taking Omega-3 Fish Oil supplements, lifted participants out of the high risk for heart attack or stroke category, and into the low risk category! Other heart-healthy fats include Olive oil, nut butters and the oils in avocados, nuts and seeds. Including these as part of your diet may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure and slow the build-up of arterial plaque.
5. Take Some Exercise
Even if you are not interested in going to the gym, or feel that you are ‘too busy’ for exercise, it is actually very easy to fit in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day. Simple things like taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, going for a lunchtime walk around the block, and getting off the bus a stop early on your way to or from work can all add up. Your 30 minutes of exercise does not need to be taken in one go, you could split it up into three ten minute sessions, perhaps before and after work and during your lunch break.
6. Keep An Eye On Your Waistline!
If you are finding your waistband uncomfortably tight, you might want to know that many experts say that waist size is a better indicator of heart health than overall body weight or BMI! If your waist measures 35 inches (89 cm) or more this could be an indicator that you are at greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Fortunately, following the heart-healthy tips above can help to reduce your waist size!
7. Finally, manage Your Stress Levels!
Chronic stress is bad for your heart health and your emotional well-being. Aerobic exercise and exercise such as Yoga or Pilates can all help to reduce stress levels. Taking some time out of a busy schedule for some ‘me’ time, whether this is coffee with a friend or relaxing with a good book for half an hour will also help.