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National Heart Month: tips for maintaining a healthy ticker

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Every February, the British Heart Foundation has promoted National Heart Month to encourage people to look after their hearts and their cardiac health.

The secret to a long life is a happy and healthy heart, especially as we reach our later years. There are various different heart conditions or problems that can occur during our lives, like restricted bloodflow in our arteries and irregular heart rhythms. Collectively these are referred to as forms of heart disease.

With more than 2.5 million people in the UK living with heart disease, it’s important to take note of how we can prevent ourselves and our loved ones from becoming affected.

While many of us may generally feel as though our hearts have a good bill of health, there are always some positive changes we can make in our lifestyles to improve how well our hearts manage on a daily basis.

Regular exercise and diet

Just 30 minutes of gentle exercise each day can go a long way to keeping our hearts and circulation healthy. Of course, this might be easier said than done for someone with limited mobility. You don’t necessarily have to get out the exercise mat and an aerobics video though – even just going for a short walk or tending to a bit of light gardening can be enough to keep you active.

Keeping an eye on your regular diet will also be massively beneficial. Try to eat more natural whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, while cutting down on fatty, greasy and salty foods. This will help to reduce your risk of high cholesterol alongside allowing you to manage your weight, as excess weight can put a bit of extra strain on the heart.

Drink and smoke less

It probably won’t come as a surprise to know that drinking alcohol and smoking can add stress to your heart, as well as affecting your overall health and wellbeing. Alcohol is often high in calories, so monitoring your alcohol intake can help to improve various aspects of your health including when it comes to keeping an eye on your weight.

Smoking can damage the lining of your arteries, while chemicals like carbon monoxide and nicotine can reduce oxygen in the blood and produce adrenaline. This causes your heart to work harder, putting more strain on it. If you’re a regular smoker, giving up the cigarettes altogether is just about the single biggest thing you can do to improve your heart health.

Keep calm and de-stress

If you find yourself feeling stressed often, this can also have an exhausting effect on your heart. By remaining calmer and keeping your stress levels low, this can reduce the amount of cortisol pumping around your body. This is a hormone that puts a greater strain on your heart, so the less of this the better.

Speak to your GP if you feel that stress is affecting your health, as they may be able to help you. While some medications could help, doing a bit of light exercise or meditation are great ways to manage stress on your own.

It can be helpful to keep and eye on things like your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as your body mass index (or BMI). By keeping a record of your regular readings, you can monitor your cardiac health and make lifestyle adjustments if and when necessary.

For additional information or support on managing regular heart issues and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the British Heart Foundation website offers lots of resources to help you.