With Valentine’s Day just around the corner the British Heart Foundation is encouraging everyone to take part in National Heart Month, dedicated to raising awareness of coronary heart disease.
Heart disease kills 94,000 people in the UK each year, and women are three times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. With no cure for heart disease, preventing it has never been more important, so here are our top, achievable tips for looking after your heart this year.
Dark chocolate can help prevent heart problems
Eat dark chocolate
Keeping your heart healthy does not have to mean depriving yourself of treats. Australian researchers found in 2012 that daily consumption of dark chocolate over 10 years could help prevent heart attacks and strokes in high-risk patients. Dark chocolate, containing at least 60% cocoa solids, is rich in antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols which help keep blood vessels dilated.
Swap white for wholegrain
Studies have repeatedly shown that wholegrain foods play an important part in lowering the risk of heart disease. Make these simple substitutions in your daily diet to help keep your heart happy:
- Swap white bread for wholegrain
- Switch to brown rice and pasta
- Cook with whole-wheat flour instead of white flour
If you are feeling really adventurous, take a look at these recipes for quinoa, which is high in protein and in fibre.
Did you know that half of all long-term smokers die early from smoking related diseases?
If you are a smoker, it is never too late to kick the habit. Within one year of quitting, your heart attack risk will fall by half. After 15 years of giving up that risk will be the same as someone who had never smoked. It isn’t easy to quit smoking, and you may attempt it several times before you are successful. But keep trying, and you could potentially add up to a decade onto your life.
Lack of exercise one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease
"If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented"- NHS.
Sadly, it doesn’t matter how much dark chocolate or wholegrain bread you eat, you are at risk of heart attack if you don’t exercise. According to the NHS, lack of exercise is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease in both men and women, but 70% of adults don’t do enough.
Getting your recommended amount of exercise does not mean you have to start running marathons or going to the gym every night- just a 30 to 40 minute brisk walk three times a week is enough to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Cut out salt
If you have a love for salt, restricting it in your cooking or at the table can leave food seeming bland and tasteless. But there is a reason we have a recommended daily allowance of salt- sodium attracts and holds water, increasing your blood volume and consequently the pressure in your arteries. Decrease the use of salt in your cooking gradually and your taste buds will start to adjust. Pretty soon you won’t even miss it.
Red wine is full of antioxidants
Like dark chocolate, red wine is full of polyphenols which can help prevent damage to blood vessels in your heart. Numerous studies have shown that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of heart disease. Whilst a glass of red wine with dinner may be an enjoyable way to protect your heart, it is important not to exceed the recommended daily limit of alcohol. More than this and your risk of heart problems will actually increase.
Heart bypass surgery in a private hospital in the UK will cost around £20,000, but many private medical insurance quotes allow you to add heart cover to your policy for an additional premium. This will ensure that if you are diagnosed with heart disease you are covered for private surgery, routine clinical care and post treatment care, as well as access to the latest drugs and treatments.
To make a donation to the British Heart Foundation, visit their website here.
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