Heart Month: Are you at risk of heart disease?

9th February 2016

February is Heart Month and with Valentine’s Day only a few days away, it makes sense to focus on the heart in our weekly blog.

Courtesy of Holland and Barrett, this blog is filled with great advice to keep your heart healthy, but be sure to pop in-store for more ways to keep your ticker in tip top nick too.

What is Heart Disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the biggest killer in the UK and 2.7million Brits are currently living with CHD. The condition means your arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material, a process called atherosclerosis. Over time, your arteries may become so narrow they cannot deliver enough blood to your heart. The pain you can feel as a result is called angina.

If a fatty deposit breaks off, it may cause a blood clot to form that could block your coronary artery and cut off blood supply to your heart muscle, triggering a heart attack. Fewer people today die from heart attacks, but they might be left with heart failure; the heart muscles are so weak, they cannot pump blood efficiently round the body.

Treatment for heart disease is often surgery or drugs. You may have a stent (a small tube) inserted to widen narrowed arteries, or bypass surgery where a blood vessel from your arm, leg or chest is used to bypass a narrowed section of artery. You may also be prescribed drugs to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, both of which raise your risk of heart disease.

What are the Causes of Heart Disease?
  • Family History
    There is no single gene that increases your risk of CHD, but if your father or brother was diagnosed under 55, or your mother or sister was diagnosed under 65, this will raise your risk. But this could also be due to unhealthy habits, such as smoking or poor diet, we pick up from our parents.
  • Getting Older
    The risk factors for heart disease in men start rising after the age of 40, while women lose the protective effects of oestrogen after menopause, increasing their risk.
  • High Blood Pressure
    Some heart health experts say this is the number one risk factor for CHD. Nearly one in three Brits have high blood pressure (hypertension) – the higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk.
  • High Cholesterol
    Eating saturated animal fats are the most likely cause of high cholesterol and it is known that high cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
  • Unhealthy Lifestyle
    Lifestyle is key – being overweight, taking too little exercise, drinking excessively, eating too much salt and not enough fruit and vegetables can all raise your risk of heart disease. Being overweight also puts you at higher risk of diabetes, which in turn increases your risk of CHD, heart attack and stroke.
  • Being Male
    Being a man means you’re more at risk as you’re more likely to have multiple risk factors, but heart disease is just as dangerous for women – three times as many women will die from heart disease than breast cancer. This means they may leave it later to seek help and may not recognise the symptoms of an attack; women suffer more from severe fatigue, shortness of breath, pain in the arm, throat and upper back – not just the chest – and nausea.

Heart Month: Are you at risk of heart disease?

How can you reduce your risk of heart disease?

There is plenty you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease from losing weight to getting married! Check out the suggestions below:

Foods to Help Fight Heart Disease
Aim for plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, some milk and dairy products, and meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein. Studies by the universities of Minnesota and North Carolina found every additional serving of wholegrains eaten can reduce heart attack risk by 7%.

Reduce Your Saturated Fats
Cut right down on sat fats, which can raise your cholesterol, and replace with small amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower oil, and oily fish like sardines and salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish have been shown to help improve your heart health.

Cut Down on Salt
Limit your salt intake, as too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. We shouldn’t have more than 6g a day, but salt is often listed as ‘sodium’ listed on food labels. To convert this into salt, multiply the measurement on the label by 2.5.

Try Going Vegetarian
Research published in the American Journal of Nutrition found veggies were 32% less likely to die or need hospital treatment as a result of heart disease. It’s thought lower levels of saturated animal fats in their diets give them the edge.

Reduce Your Portions
Being overweight is associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – key risk factors for heart disease. Fat cells in the body also produce chemicals called interleukins and leptins that increase the stickiness of the blood, making it more likely to clot. Losing weight can help switch these ‘bad’ hormones off.

Quit Smoking
Giving up smoking is the single most important thing you can do to get a healthy heart. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack than people who have never smoked. A recent Canadian study found those who quit before 40 live almost as long as those who’ve never smoked.

Take Regular Exercise
Staying active will not only help you keep the weight off, it stimulates enzymes that help move ‘bad’ cholesterol to your liver for processing. Your heart is also a muscle and needs exercise to help it keep fit, so it can pump blood efficiently around your body. Build up to 150 minutes of activity a week.

Get Married!
Evidence shows married men have better heart health than their single friends, and now Finnish researchers say marriage is good for women too. The social support between a couple – encouraging each other to take medication or call for help when needed – helps keep hearts healthy.

Cut Your Stress Levels
Numerous studies, including the Whitehall Study of over 10,000 civil servants, found workplace stress – particularly if you don’t feel in control of your workload – is bad for your heart.

Consider Some Supplements
There is some evidence that coenzyme Q10 may help patients with high blood pressure, while those with low levels of vitamin D may be more at risk of heart disease. Resveratrol, found in small amounts of red wine, may help blood flow through the heart more easily, improving cardiovascular health.

Get the Right Amount of Sleep
A meta-analysis in the European Heart Journal found both those who got less than five to six hours, or more than eight to nine hours, of sleep each night had an increased risk of heart disease. The prime time for golden slumbers is seven to eight hours.

To find out more about keeping your heart healthy and products that can help with heart health management, pop in-store to Holland and Barrett in the centre.