This Month’s Feature

A Healthy Heart For Valentine's Day

This Month’s Feature

A Healthy Heart For Valentine's Day

 

A Healthy Heart For Valentine’s Day

The heart is centre stage on 14 February. But to misquote a popular saying, ‘a heart is for life, not just for Valentine’s Day!’

Your heart works hard. It’s essential to pump nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to your whole body, as well as carry metabolic waste products away.

Most people think heart disease only affects older people but this isn’t true. The way you live while you’re young impacts your heart health in later life. Plaque can begin accumulating in your arteries in your teens and twenties. It comprises of fatty deposits, made up of waste products produced by the body’s cells. If plaque goes unchecked it can thicken the blood vessel walls, clog arteries and take a toll on your heart.

It’s commonly thought that heart disease is primarily a problem which affects men, but it’s also the second leading cause of death for women (after Alzheimer’s) in the UK, and about two in ten of the deaths caused by coronary artery disease occur in adults, whether male and female, who are under 65 years old.

This means that whatever sex you are, making heart-healthy choices when you’re young will reduce your risk of heart disease as you age.

Ways to reduce the risk of heart disease include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding smoking (or giving up)
  • Avoiding excess alcohol
  • Managing stress levels.

It’s also important to keep up with regular wellness examinations including monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Most pharmacists can carry out these checks.

One myth about heart disease is that all fat is bad for you, but while certain types of fats like saturated and trans fats are linked to heart disease, other types of fats can actually lower your risk of problems.

Hence you should include some unsaturated fats in your diet, as they are beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats are found in fresh nuts, olive oil, and low-fat dairy products, also fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acid-rich, such as salmon.

Genes also play a role when it comes to heart health. It’s true that some people will always be more at risk of heart disease because of genes they’ve inherited from their parents. But just because you have a genetic predisposition to heart disease does not mean that it’s inevitable you will succumb. However, if you engage in harmful behaviours, such as smoking, excessive drinking. avoiding exercise, and eating an unhealthy diet, you will definitely put yourself more at risk. Poor lifestyle choices can increase your cholesterol levels, cause high blood pressure, and even result in type 2 diabetes. All of these have the potential to increase your risk for contracting heart disease.  So if you know you have genetic risk factors, it’s even more important to maintain a healthy weight, keep your blood pressure under control, and stay active.

By Jamie Maxfield.