Every three minutes, someone in the UK will be struck by a heart attack. Anyone can have a heart attack and keeping your heart healthy, whatever your age, is the most important thing you can do to help prevent heart disease.
February is National Heart Month and aims to raise awareness of heart and circulatory diseases as well as reminding people about the importance of keeping your heart healthy.
There are many factors that contribute to heart health problems including poor diet (with excessive consumption of red meat, alcohol and processed foods, which are often high in salt), smoking, lack of exercise, excessive stress and being overweight or obese.
British and South Asians are more likely to suffer from heart disease, and at a much earlier age. This is partly down to an increased rate of incidence of diabetes within this ethnicity group.
So what can be done to prevent heart disease? Georgina O’Regan, heart failure specialist nurse at Heartlands Hospital, explains there are several ways in which you can keep your heart healthy: “A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stop you gaining weight and reduce your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Everyone should aim for a well-balanced diet which should include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables. Try to vary the types of fruit and veg you eat. They can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned.
“Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked. By quitting smoking, your health will improve and you will also reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and a variety of cancers. You will also feel better and have more money to spend on other things that you enjoy.
“Living a more active and less stressful life will be good for the heart. Exercising often will make your heart and circulatory system more efficient, reduce your cholesterol levels and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
“If you do suffer from heart disease, there are a number of medical interventions that can lessen the symptoms if lifestyle changes alone are not enough. These include medications to help reduce your heart’s workload, lessen your levels of cholesterol, lower excessive blood pressure and help combat blood clots. All of these measures are intended to help lessen the need for surgical intervention.”
For more information on preventing heart disease, visit the British Heart Foundation website (www.bhf.org.uk).