1 - Get active for at least 20 minutes each day.
Regular physical activity reduces your risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. The NHS recommends we all do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week1. When you put it like this it seems like a lot but broken down this is just 21 minutes a day. It doesn’t even need to be 20 minutes at the same time, it could be 2 lots of 10 minutes or 4 lots of 5 minutes.
Most research has shown that humans are creatures of habit, so make whatever exercise you want, (walking, yoga, cycling), part of your daily routine. A top tip is to link it onto something you are already doing, so this way it becomes something you do naturally like brushing your teeth. For example, having lunch and then going for a walk on your lunch break afterwards or doing some Yoga stretches when you get up in the morning.
In fact, moderate, sustained walking is beneficial to many aspects of health from maintaining a healthy weight to supporting fitness and cardiovascular health. It has also been shown to benefit mental health in particular mood2.
2 - Eat nutrients known to play a role in heart health
Eat oily Fish
- Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, is high in long-chain omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which contribute to the normal function of the heart. There has been lots of research into Omega 3 fats and oily fish. The UK government recommends we eat two 140g portions of fish a week one of which oily. In reality fish consumption in the UK is much lower, on average fish consumption for children aged 4-18 is only 14g, a tenth of a portion and for adults aged 19-64 average intake was 54g a third of a portion4. If fish is not your thing you might want to consider supplementing with a high quality and strength fish oil supplement such as Efamax Ultra Strength.
Get your 5 a day
- Keeping the contents of every meal as colourful as possible with plenty of fruit and vegetables is vital. Think of incorporating as many colours of the rainbow as possible. From purple sprouting broccoli to sweetcorn, squash and peas, they are all contributing to your 5+ a day. Greens are always good and spinach is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), folate, vitamin C and Magnesium. Magnesium helps support normal muscle function and vitamin C is an antioxidant, that helps protect cells from oxidative stress.
Eat fibre at each meal
- Soluble fibre found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels.
- Products that contain 1g of oat beta glucans per serving (a type of soluble fibre) are allowed to claim that they can help lower cholesterol levels. Oat-based products such as porridge, muesli, oatcakes, oat bread and some oat milks also contain oat beta glucans and can be cheaper.
Cut down on trans-fats and saturated fat
- Too much saturated fat and trans-fat have been shown to increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Trans-fats are in processed foods such as ready made cakes and biscuits. Saturated fats are in fatty cuts of meat, sausages, pies, butter, cheese, cakes and biscuits.
3 - Stay Social
People with a close social network are 29% less likely to have a heart attack than those who don’t, according to an analysis of 11 studies in the British Medical Journal. People who feel socially isolated are more inclined to smoke, less likely to exercise and more likely to have high blood pressure. Join some local groups to feel part of the local community. If you feel like the weeks just pass by and you haven’t seen friends, then arrange a weekly catch up.
4 - Walk around every 30 minutes.
If you work on a computer all day set an alarm on your phone/computer to remind you to get up and stretch your legs every 20-30 minutes. People who spend long hours sitting are at greater risk of heart disease, even if they eat healthily and work out, found a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Sitting for long periods affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.
5 - Prioritise your Sleep
A recent analysis of studies on 160,000 people found clear links between sleep problems and an increased risk of heart attacks. The NHS offers important advice on the value of sleep, citing that having enough, good quality sleep is vital for good health and a lack of sleep can impact mental wellbeing, focus and energy plus physical wellbeing including heart health and immunity.
Food supplements should not replace a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle.