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World Heart Day

World Heart Day

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Why do we celebrate it today? 

In May 2012, world leaders committed to reducing global mortality from chronic diseases by 25% by 2025.  Standing out in this list was cardiovascular disease: accountable for nearly half of all chronic diseases, it is the world’s number one killer.  This day was thus created to raise awareness of this deadly condition.

Set up by the World Heart Federation, World Heart Day informs people around the globe that heart disease – including stroke – is the world’s leading cause of death, claiming nearly 18 million lives each year.  It highlights the actions individuals should take to prevent it, and aims to educate people about controlling risk factors such as tobacco, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity that contribute to 80% of avoidable premature deaths.

Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to reduce the chances of getting heart disease:

  • Control your blood pressure
    It’s a major risk factor for stroke and a leading cause of disability in the UK.  Having more than 5 grams of salt (a teaspoon) each day increases your risk of heart disease and stroke – shake that salt habit!
  • Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control
    There are two main types of cholesterol:

    1. High-Density Lipoprotein: HDL or ‘good cholesterol’
    2. Low-Density Lipoprotein: LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’‘Bad cholesterol’ can stick to the walls of your arteries, causing a build-up of cholesterol, known as plaques. This build-up can create blockages in your arteries and contribute to increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke – know your numbers and know where you want to be!
  • Stay at a healthy weight
    You shouldn’t focus on relying on or eliminating any one type of food, but rather on the general pattern your diet takes over days, weeks and months.  By doing this you can identify problem areas which might be hindering your ability to stay at a healthy weight, whether you might be eating too much of the wrong things or just too much overall.  You might want to:

    1. Set up a food diary
    2. Start managing portion sizes
  • Eat a healthy diet
    Following on from the previous point, healthy diet is one of the best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease.  Though of course we can all make exceptions, to best protect your heart your overall diet should be low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar. Set yourself up with short term goals.  Try to choose the following foods.

    1. Lean meats and meat alternatives like beans or tofu
    2. Fish, vegetables, beans, and nuts
    3. Non-fat and low-fat dairy products
    4. Polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, like olive oils, to replace saturated fats, such as butter
  • Get regular exercise
    Be physically active every day. Research has shown that at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep weight at a healthy level.  If a daily exercise regimen seems to daunting, remember that something is better than nothing!
  • Limit alcohol
    …To two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.  Though the proximity of the fridge can be a challenge (!), take advantage of the fact that working from home during lockdown also provides more opportunity for flexibility in your routine.  Why not try and create some time during the day to go for a walk or run as a post-work, de-stressing activity, rather than reaching for a beer or glass of wine.
  • Don’t smoke
    If you smoke, quit. It’s tough, but it’s tougher to recover from a heart attack or stroke – commit to quit!
  • Manage stress
    Multiple studies have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress linked to risk factors for heart disease and stroke.  By this we mean that stress often increases a person’s inclination to partake in riskier activities.  For example, people under intense stress may start drinking or smoking more than they otherwise would.Try doing something active like going for a walk or getting some fresh air when you’re feeling stressed; it can really help.   Though it can seem harder in the short term, anyone who exercises regularly knows that when you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body and ultimately make you feel better.

It’s just over three months to Christmas, so why don’t you give it a go and set yourself a target to know your numbers, cut down on the booze  or lose some weight (if like me you need too) before the festivities begin!