Hearts are a key symbol on Valentine’s Day, but they are about more than just romance – they play a vital role in our everyday lives. It’s important to keep your heart healthy all year round and to help you feel better in your day-to-day life.
Here are some facts about your heart and tips to help you look after your heart health:
Coronary Heart Disease
Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK, that’s more than 160,000 deaths each year – an average of 460 deaths each day or one every three minutes in the UK. 1
Coronary Heart Disease is the most common cause of heart attacks and was the single biggest killer of both and men and women worldwide in 2019.1
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) occurs when blood supply to the heart muscle is reduced. This happens when fatty deposits, called atheroma, build up on the inner walls of the coronary arteries and harden. Gradually over time, this causes coronary arteries to narrow, lose their elasticity and even become blocked.
If the coronary arteries become partially blocked, enough to restrict blood and oxygen to the heart, angina may occur. Angina is a pain in the chest that is usually triggered by physical activity or stress and is a warning sign of CHD.
If a complete blockage occurs, such as when unstable plaque breaks away and causes a blood clot that ‘plugs’ the artery, part of the heart muscle will become starved of oxygen and damaged – this is a heart attack.
Who is most at risk?
Someone is more at risk of developing CHD if they have the following risk factors:
- Sex – men are more at risk of developing CHD at an early age
- Family history of CHD
- High blood pressure
- Raised cholesterol
- Being overweight or obese
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of exercise
So, what can you do to reduce your risk?
It can be tempting to reach for the chocolate and treats, especially on Valentine’s Day, but try to do so in moderation.
The NHS recommends eating a balanced diet rich in fruit, veg, starchy foods and protein, and which includes a small amount of the right fats. You should aim to reduce the overall amount of fat you eat, however not all fats should be avoided completely – some foods contain mono and poly-unsaturated fats which are ‘heart-healthy’. These fats can be found in foods such as avocados, nuts, salmon, and sardines.
Fibre is also important in your diet and can be found in a variety of foods, such as wholemeal bread, bran, oats, wholegrain cereals, and fruit and vegetables. You should aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day – chocolate covered strawberries don’t count!
Stay active and exercise!
Another way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to get – and stay – active. Regular exercise gets your heart beating faster and helps to control blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels and weight.
The NHS recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week to benefit your health. There are many ways you can incorporate more exercise into your daily routine – you don’t have to join a gym! Walking is a great place to start, or why not try cycling or even do a workout in your living room. The NHS Active 10 app is a great way to track how active you are.
If you’re a smoker – stop!
Smoking is bad for your heart because many of the chemicals that cigarettes contain are poisonous and harmful to the heart, and they can seriously increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.2
You’re more likely to quit if you have support. Visit the NHS website for more information on the free and friendly stop smoking services available.
Drink less alcohol
Many of us like to enjoy a glass of wine or fizz with our partners on Valentine’s Day but remember too much alcohol can be fattening. Drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline, so it’s a good idea to try to keep to the recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the risk of serious problems with your health, including risks to your heart health.
It’s never too late to make positive changes to your lifestyle and to start taking proper care of your heart health! So, this Valentine’s Day, why not enjoy a home cooked meal, get active by going for a walk and forgo the chocolates for a more personal gift?
Remember, if you have any concerns about your heart health, it’s important to speak to your GP.
Enjoy the Valentine’s Day celebrations and here’s to a heart healthy year.
To find out more about how a Sovereign Health Care cash plan can support your health , click here.