Valentine’s Day may fall in February, but it’s in September that we acknowledge World Heart Day. On the 29th of this month, people around the globe will come together to spread the word about cardiovascular health.
This year, in an effort to reduce the devastating impact of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the organisers of World Heart Day are trying to encourage heart-healthy decisions. If you want to get involved, you can share your own Healthy Heart Tip here, or simply read on to find out some key facts about keeping your ticker in good nick.
Cardiovascular disease is the world’s number one killer
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for almost half of all deaths by non-communicable disease, and claims over 17.5 million lives every single year.
Coronary heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease
CVD is a name applied to a number of different diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. Coronary heart disease is a type of CVD that occurs when blood supply to the heart is restricted or blocked (which can in turn lead to angina, heart attack and heart failure).
Other types of CVD include stroke (where blood supply to the brain is cut off) and aorta disease, which specifically affects the blood vessel carrying blood from the heart.
A healthy heart requires healthy blood vessels
Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries harden and narrow over time. It’s caused by high cholesterol and the build-up of fatty substances known as plaques. The arteries can also be weakened by high blood pressure, which in turn makes them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.
Reducing your cholesterol levels and bringing your blood pressure into a healthy range are two excellent ways of keeping your heart healthy.
Smoking causes high cholesterol and atherosclerosis
We all know that smoking is bad for us – but did you know it’s a key risk factor for heart disease? Smoking is thought to lower your levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, and to weaken the arteries. For this reason, quitting smoking is recommended to anyone concerned about the health of their heart.
Salt is particularly bad for your heart
Consuming too much salt is a key risk factor for high blood pressure, which – as we’ve seen – can lead to cardiovascular disease. Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (that’s around one teaspoon). That means cutting back on pre-made, salt-heavy supermarket foods like bread, crisps, cereal and ready meals, and being cautious about how much salt you add to home-cooked food.
Diabetes is linked to an unhealthy heart
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to the thickening of the arteries and restrict blood flow to the heart. It’s not always easy to mitigate your risk of developing diabetes, as it’s often related to genetic factors. In the case of type 2 diabetes, however, you can reduce your risk of developing the disease by maintaining a healthy weight.
Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a heart problem
Despite erectile dysfunction (ED) being a common condition, many men still feel embarrassed about seeking medical help for it. This is worrying as ED can be an indication that there is a problem with the heart. One cause of ED is narrowed or weakened arteries, which restrict blood flow to the penis. If the arteries supplying the penis are narrowed or weakened, that suggests that the arteries supplying the heart are in trouble too.
If you’re suffering from ED, you should always talk to a doctor. Don’t forget that, even if there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed, effective short-term treatment is available in the form of ED tablets such as Viagra. Click here to visit our ED Clinic and learn more.
Swollen feet, memory loss and sweating can all be symptoms too
As outlined in this article, there are other unexpected symptoms related to heart problems along with ED. If you notice that your feet have gotten swollen, you’ve started feeling lightheaded or dizzy at random times, or you’re sweating more than usual, you should visit your doctor.
Just 30 minutes of activity a day can have a positive impact
One of the best ways to guard against heart disease is to take regular exercise. Exercise lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol, and keeps your circulatory system working properly.
The NHS recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, plus strength exercises on two or more days. If that sounds intimidating, just bear in mind that moderate activity includes brisk walking, riding a bike and even pushing a lawn mower.
Eating more fibre is a great way to boost heart health
One easy way to start protecting your heart is to eat more fibre (you should aim for about 30g a day). Fibre is thought to be beneficial for your heart because it lowers cholesterol. It’s also good for keeping your bowels healthy and making you feel fuller for longer, which can help with weight loss.
Fibre-rich foods include oats, bananas, apples, carrots, potatoes, wholemeal bread, and nuts & seeds. If you do increase your fibre intake, make sure you do so gradually, and that you drink plenty of water.
One last thing to bear in mind is that keeping your heart healthy is beneficial for the rest of your body too. Staying at a healthy weight, exercising, and eating a better diet are all factors which can improve your general health and mood.