Show your heart some love this Valentines Day
It is Valentines Day in the UK and across much of the western world, while in India and other Asian countries, February has been designated “Healthy Heart’ month, so we thought we would share some tips on how to keep your heart healthy.
There are three main ways that you can help your heart to stay as fit and healthy as possible.
The first thing to remember is that your heart is a muscle, so it needs training just like any other muscle.
So… get moving
Getting regular exercise is vital for heart health. By exercising at a moderate rate regularly, you can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight.
Adults should do 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. One way of achieving this target is to do 30 minutes of activity five days a week. Inactive people will achieve benefits very quickly when they resume activity.
For your physical activity to count, you need to be active enough to make you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Activities can range from a brisk walk to more vigorous exercise such as running or energetic dancing. And there is anecdotal and scientific evidence that exercise is good for your mood too. Science points to raised serotonin levels, while you know yourself just how great you feel after a burst of lung-busting activity.
Beware the chair
No matter how active you are, sitting down for long periods is unhealthy and linked to weight gain.
You can reduce the amount of time you spend sitting by building activity into your day, and taking breaks when you do have to stay seated for a long time. Why not walk while you talk with colleagues or friends, and get up and move around between sessions of screen time?
Eat your way to a healthy heart
A healthy, balanced diet can help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)
Advice from the NHS website says you should try to eat:
• at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables
• plenty of starchy foods, especially wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta
• some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
• some milk and dairy foods – choose lower-fat varieties
• just a small amount of food and drinks high in fat, sugar, or both
The key messages are:
Eat more fibre to help lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Adults should aim for at least 30g of fibre a day.
Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. Fruit and veg can be a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Reduce your total fat intake, especially saturated fat. These lead to increased cholesterol, so are bad for your heart. Foods high in saturated fat include butter, hard cheese, fatty meat, biscuits, cakes, cream, lard, suet, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil.
Cut down on sugary foods and drinks so you have them only occasionally in small amounts. Cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets and some fizzy and juice drinks contain “free sugars”. Free sugars include the sugars added to food or drink, as well as the sugars found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juice.
Eat less salt. You do need a small amount of salt in your diet (less than 6g/day) but too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which is linked to heart disease. About 75% of the salt in our diet is already in the food we buy. For example, popular foods such as bacon, sausages and bread, as well as ready meals, often contain a lot of salt.
Take it easy
With all this talk of exercise and activity, it is often easy to forget that your heart needs to rest as well. That means physically taking a time out but also relaxing your brain. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet, and lack of exercise.
Learn to meditate, de-stress through relaxation techniques or simply go for a gentle stroll – anything to remove the tension and stress that builds up throughout our hectic lives.
This Valentines Day and every day – show your heart some love.