How Healthy Is Your Heart
Read on for our expert advice on keeping your heart in good working order
plus, how to spot the warning signs if something’s not right.
Your weight can give you a good idea. Tracking your weight and BMI is a pretty good indicator of your overall heart health, and for this, just a set of scales will suffice.
You can then use other metrics for fitness levels as a surrogate of heart health – how long did your last 10K run take? How long does it take to do 5K on your rowing machine? And so on.
ARE YOU AT RISK?
Heart health is something you might think you don’t need to consider until you’re much older, but it’s important to be aware of risk factors.
According to Medical experts, those most at risk include:
● People who are overweight or obese
● People with diabetes
● People with a family history of serious heart problems (particularly in young people or families with a history of sudden death)
● People with elevated (particularly
untreated) cholesterol levels
● People in the BAME community
Those at most serious risk, of course, are people with symptoms of heart disease who have not been investigated or treated, for example, those who have been experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, blackouts, and palpitations.
So if you’re relatively young, fit, and healthy, and you don’t smoke, is there even a risk?
Fortunately, the risk in younger people is generally shallow, but approximately 10 to 12 young people die suddenly every week.
This is one reason why more defibrillators call for more defibrillators to be provided across the country and why some countries, such as Italy, screen everyone before they commence exercise or even get a gym membership.
The true value of the national screen has not yet been established.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEART PROBLEMS?
It goes without saying that you should get these checked out without delay if you experience any sign of heart problems.
● Chest pain, particularly if associated with exercise
● Shortness of breath, particularly if it’s out of keeping with the level of exercise you’re doing
● Palpitations, particularly when rapid
● Severe dizzy spells or blackouts, particularly during exercising
These are some signs of an underlying heart problem and should be checked out immediately. Sadly, heart problems can also strike without warning.
This is why having some form of screen periodically is a good idea. I mean, your car has to
have an MOT every year for you to drive it, so why not your heart?’
HEALTH AND LIFESTYLE
As we’ve seen above, many of the risk factors for heart problems can be avoided, which shows that, when it comes to taking good care of your heart, a healthy lifestyle is key.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are crucial to heart health. Maintaining a good weight (within the normal BMI range), a normal blood pressure, ensuring your salt intake is low, moderating alcohol, and never smoking are all part of heart health and preventing
many other types of disease.
EATING FOR HEART HEALTH
Your diet plays a big role in ensuring your heart stays healthy, with the foods you eat impact your risk of developing heart disease.
– you begin to see why what you have on your plate is important.
Here’s a rundown of some of the foods you should (and shouldn’t) be included in your diet.
● Leafy green vegetables. A 2011 study of almost 30,000 women, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that a higher intake of leafy green veg was linked to a significantly lower risk of heart disease. This could be due to its heart-healthy dietary nitrates and vitamin K levels.
● Berries. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants, protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation.
● Tomatoes. High in lycopene (an important antioxidant), tomatoes are another great dietary addition. In fact, a study in the European Journal of Public Health shows that
low blood levels of lycopene are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
● Wholegrains, including wholewheat bread and brown rice, are high in fiber and may reduce levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
● Beans and pulses. These are high in resistant starch, which some studies have shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Eating more beans and pulses is also linked to reduced blood pressure and less inflammation, both markers for heart health.
● Omega-3 rich fatty fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, have long been linked with good heart health. Studies showing including it in your diet can help with decreased blood pressure to lower levels of blood cholesterol triglycerides.
AVOID OR LIMIT…
● Red meat. This is a big no-no when it comes to heart health – high in saturated fat, which is known to increase LDL cholesterol levels, it’s one to leave off your plate.
● Processed meats. High in saturated fat and salt, it’s best to give processed meats, such as ham and sausages, a miss. Your heart will thank you for it.
● Fizzy drinks. Studies have shown that those who drink fizzy drinks tend to gain more weight than those who don’t, and they also have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Stick to water flavored with a slice of lime or cucumber.
● Drinking alcohol heavily, which is associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, stroke, and heart failure – another good reason to stick to the
If You apply the above recommendations, your heart will thank you.
While it will not make miracles, it will surely prevent many harmful processes in your body.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- European Journal of Public Health