How to Look After Your Heart
by Dr. Sarah Brewer
A Nutritionist and Doctor
Your heart is an amazing organ. It contracts and relaxes around 70 times a minute – that's 100,800 times per day and over 2.76 billion times during an average lifespan. If you look after your heart, it can carry on beating significantly longer, but fail to pay attention to your diet and lifestyle – well, your heart may fail prematurely as a result. And although traditionally viewed as a male disease, heart attacks now kill three times more women than cancers of the breast, ovaries and cervix combined.
Most people already know how to maintain a healthy heart – the difficulty is in putting it into practice! So at the risk of being boring, here's all the usual advice all over again.
- Eat a healthy diet - 5-a-day fruit and veg (at least).
- Select healthy fats (olive oil, rape seed oil, hemp seed oil, nut oils).
- Go easy on the cakes, biscuits, pastries, fried foods and cream.
- Cut back on salt.
- Exercise regularly for at least 30 to 60 minutes on most days – walk to and from work or at least part of the way.
- Lose any excess weight, especially the ‘menopot’ around your waist.
- If you smoke tobacco, do your utmost to stop, cut back, or at least use the less harmful alternative of an electronic cigarette until you are ready to quit.
- Keep alcohol intakes within recommended limits.
- Avoid excess stress.
- Know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and have them checked at least once a year.
- Maintain tight control of existing risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and raised cholesterol (through diet, lifestyle and any necessary prescribed medication).
You already knew most, if not all, of that didn't you? Promise yourself that from now on, you'll treat your body as a temple. It's easier to prevent a heart attack than to try to reverse the damage once one has already occurred.