Heart disease is the UK’s number one killer. Over 160,000 people die from heart and circulatory disease in the UK each year, and every seven minutes someone will have a heart attack.
To give yourself the best chance to avoid becoming a statistic, there are nine important lifestyle changes to make now, according to the Heart Association.
The most important thing is to stop smoking. According to the British Heart Foundation, smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to someone who has never smoked.
Smoking damages the lining of arteries, which can go on to cause angina, stroke or cardiovascular disease.
Choose good nutrition
Choosing a healthy diet is also crucial. What you eat affects your cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and likelihood of getting diabetes, all of which can heighten a person’s risk of heart problems.
Even if you have an existing heart condition, good nutrition can help, says the British Heart Foundation.
Reduce high blood cholesterol
High cholesterol is a big danger, as fat lodged in arteries could trigger a heart attack or stroke.
To get it down to a safe level, reduce your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol-laden foods such as fatty meats and cakes.
Lower high blood pressure
Up to seven million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, according to the British Heart Foundation, making heart attacks more likely.
Blood pressure can be reduced by lowering the amount of salt in your diet, and by making the effort to exercise everyday.
Be physically active
Don’t be discouraged by recommendations that a person needs to exercise vigorously at least four times a week to see any benefit.
Any activity is better than nothing, so get moving, even if it’s just a walk to the shop. Ten minutes a day can offer health benefits and help protect you against heart problems.
Aim for a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Control your calorie intake and choose healthy options in your diet in order to reduce your chance of illness.
Diabetes increases a person’s chance of cardiovascular disease, when combined with other risk factors such as obesity or high blood pressure. High levels of glucose in your blood can damage the artery walls, making them more likely to develop fatty deposits, warns the British Heart Foundation.
Managing the disease by controlling diet and doing physical activity will lessen the chance of developing heart disease.
Stress may negatively affect a person’s blood pressure, putting them at a higher risk of a heart attack.
It doesn’t help that people who are stressed often reach for alcohol or cigarettes to calm themselves down, or make unhealthy food and lifestyle choices.
Drinking too much alcohol has been attributed to a rise in heart disease and abnormal heart rhythms. It can also cause cancer, liver problems and strokes.
Both men and women are advised to have alcohol-free days each week, and to drink no more than 14 units a week. Not surprisingly, alcohol may also lead a person to gain weight or make bad food choices, points out the British Heart Foundation.
The clocks went forward last weekend for British Summer Time. Scientists have announced that the time change, coupled with sleep deprivation, resulted in an increased risk of suffering a heart attack.