How to Take Care of Your Heart

Posted on October 6, 2021

How to Take Care of Your Heart

Our bodies reflect our lifestyle, not only mentally but physically. It is not just seen on the outside but can affect our major organs internally, which is what keeps us ticking. Our hearts, show the physical signs of stress, overexertion and even heartbreak. That’s not to say that every minor stress will have a long-standing impact on your heart, but like a stone footpath worn down over time, repeated lifestyle choices have a collective impact on the health of your body. Just as a footpath must be regularly maintained, so does your heart through the introduction and maintenance of positive habits.

First, it may be beneficial to better understand how illnesses present themselves in the heart. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the name given to any condition that affects the heart or blood vessels. One example of this would be coronary heart disease (CHD), caused by blockages or obstructions in the arteries that reduce blood flow and provides inadequate oxygen supply to the heart. Other risk factors that can affect cardiovascular health include unhealthy lifestyle choices (poor diet and lack of exercise), high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. All of which can be managed through changes to our daily habits.

Like fuelling up a car, what type of food we are putting in can affect the health of our bodies. Foods’s high in salt, sugar, or saturated fat (butter, cakes, pastries) is likely to have a negative effect on our heart health over time and should be eaten in moderation. In contrast, foods that are high in omega 3 (like salmon, hemp seeds, tuna, mackerel, chia seeds, herring, flaxseeds and trout) have shown to have a positive effect on heart health and the recommendation is to consume at least two portions of fish per week, of which one oily fish. Brightly coloured red/orange vegetables (like carrots, sweet potato, red peppers and tomatoes) have also shown to have a positive effect on heart health. As with everything, the best approach is to find a balance.

Secondly, it can be important to take notice of how you are dealing with outward stressors. Sometimes your job or home life, being stuck in traffic or even watching your team lose the football, can be stressful and it is important to take note of how you handle this. Anything that regularly raises your blood pressure or makes your blood boil, so to speak, will have some impact on the health of your heart and blood vessels, this can be made even worse by the intake of alcohol and cigarettes. If you find yourself experiencing prolonged periods of stress and low mood, there is no shame in reaching out to someone for help. Either a professional or a friend, getting things off your chest and starting a conversation is one of the most important choices that you can make for your health.

Making exercise part of your daily routine can significantly improve your heart health, and releases endorphins, which improves our mood. Increasing the frequency and variety of activity that you do can also help to lower your blood pressure. It is recommended that we all aim for 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise each week, which can be split up however best suits you. Having someone to work out with or joining a team are good ways to keep your motivation up, but just finding something that you genuinely enjoy is the best way to stop it feeling like a chore.

Reducing your intake of both cigarettes and alcohol and exchanging with things like meditation or exercise can be a good place to start.

Finally, remember to get your blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked regularly, either at home or by your GP or local pharmacist. Making positive changes with your overall health in mind can be beneficial not just for your heart but also for your mood and energy levels.