Staying Heart Healthy

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If you’ve been watching the hilarious Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing on iPlayer, in between all the laughs are some vital points to take home, especially about heart health. With all the hard work it has to do (it’s so easy to forget it is pumping non-stop) taking care of your heart is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I’m not just talking about you, but other members of your family, especially anyone you know who you think would be prone to issues relating to poor heart health.

In this short blog post, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the things you, or someone you’re concerned about, could do to ensure you have good heart health and aren’t at risk with a surprise in years to come. All these tips are easy-going and don’t put pressure on anyone.

Heart-Healthy Tip 1: Know what cholesterol actually is
Cholesterol is one of those funny words where you think it means a bad thing, but it’s pretty much the opposite. You’ll often hear about people having high cholesterol levels, which isn’t great for the heart, but your body does need a base level (which differs from person to person) of cholesterol as it helps with lots of things. In fact, your body needs cholesterol to help digest food and produce hormones. Having a high level creates plaque on your arteries, so think of it like taking care of your teeth.

Heart-Healthy Tip 2: Know what the signs of heart problems are
When someone has a heart attack, it’s not the way actors in a soap-like Emmerdale or Corrie get on where a person would clutch their chest and drop to the floor. The signs of heart problems can be much broader than that. Obviously, pains in the chest are the most common, but some things that could be linked to a heart issue include:

· Feeling sweaty when you’ve not been “pushing” yourself
· Regular stomach pains
· Jaw pain, which is more common for women with heart problems
· Constantly feeling tired

The British Heart Foundation website has some fantastic guides on what to look out for.

Heart-Healthy Tip 3: Knowing when to see a specialist
Never put off going to a GP if you think someone you know has heart issues. They’ll be able to give a full assessment and refer you to a specialist. You can also visit a private consultant cardiologist who can carry out a chest pain assessment with imaging technology, which is like a very fancy 21st-century version of an x-ray.

Heart-Healthy Tip 4: Walk the dog
Being lazy is, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest problems people with heart issues have. Simple (pardon the language) getting up off your bum and going out for at least half an hour every day can do wonders for your heart. I liken it to your heart being like a car engine. Leave it sitting all the time and the thing will have problems getting started when you need it to get going.

Heart-Healthy Tip 5: Eat chocolate and drink wine
Before you run to the kitchen to open a bottle of merlot and crack a chocolate orange on the counter, hear me out. Both cocoa and wine (has to be red) have a very low level of anti-oxidants in them that cholesterol like. So if you were to have just one glass with dinner, and a piece (or two) or high percentage chocolate from those fancy bars you get in the supermarket, your body will actually be thankful.

Bonus tip: Always read the label
I’m leaving you with an extra tip that is so easy you can do it every time you go shopping. Your heart health can be impacted by saturated fats and salts. If you’re prone to buying ready meals at the supermarket, have a quick peek at the label to see what those levels are like.

It can be surprising to see what a simple chicken korma or microwave soup has hidden in there but knowing those levels can be the difference between lashing salt over the plate or seeking out fat-free options.

- photo credit: verchmarco Arzt mit einem Stethoskop in der Hand hält ein Schild mit der Schrift 'Health Tips' via photopin (license)

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