What better day to think about your heart, or someone else’s, on Valentine’s Day. Here’s our top 10 tips for keeping your heart healthy today and every day.
- Sleep. Try and aim for at least 7 hours sleep per night; evidence tells us that less can result in a build-up of calcium in your arteries, which is linked to an early sign of heart disease. Help yourself to sleep better by avoiding using your smart phone or tablet in the hour before bed. The blue light given off by phones, laptops, and other electronic gadgets at night prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it’s nighttime. Also try not to eat or drink right before bedtime.
- Diet. A healthy balanced diet is the key to keeping your heart healthy. This should contain plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta (ideally wholegrain varieties). Along with some milk and dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein. Only a small amount of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar is recommended. Ideally, we should cut down our intake of bad fats, salt and particularly sugar to protect our heart.
- Portion size. Even if you are eating healthy food, it is still possible to put on weight if portion sizes are too large. Or not eating enough can also lead to poor heart health . By ensuring you are eating healthy portion sizes your body will be taking sufficient nutrients. By eating regular meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can control your hunger and avoid the temptation of unhealthy snacks. Another great way to a healthy heart.
- Walk more. This is a big one, because our lives seem to be getting busier but we aren’t as active as previous generations. Many of our lives are sedatory and heavily based on sitting in front of a computer screen. By simply walking more you can improve your heart fitness, though ideally at a brisk pace. We can achieve this by taking time to enjoy our great local parks, parking further from where you are going to, getting off the bus at an earlier stop and using stairs rather than lifts or escalators.
- Exercise. If you haven’t exercised for a long time it’s best to gradually increase the time and intensity. If you’re using the gym they’ll be a great variety of equipment to use, with the added bonus of being able to book in with a qualified and experienced instructor to advise you. At L Leisure all our memberships include programmes and ongoing customer support. Attending fitness classes are also a great idea because as it adds a social element and you’ll be exercising with people who help to push each other along. Most gyms have a wide variety; across Bramcote Leisure Centre, Chilwell Olympia and Kimberley Leisure Centre we have over 140 every week!
- Stress. Life and work can be very stressful and it has been proven that high levels of stress is linked to cardiovascular disease. This in part is due to us making poor coping mechanism choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol and comfort eating poor food. It also has a negative impact by increasing blood pressure with the heart beating faster. Try taking time out of every day to relax and rejuvenate your mind and body. Relaxation clan include; meditation, a walk in the park, Yoga, Pilates or a chill in the Spa at Bramcote. High intensity may be more your thing; such as a stress relief high intensity interval training (HIIT) or BoxFit class.
- Stop smoking. Smoking damages you heart by damaging the lining of the arteries (resulting in the becoming thinner and more likely to become blocked). It makes your heart work harder pumping oxygen around the body because the carbon monoxide reduces oxygen levels. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure because the nicotine is a stimulant. By taking steps to quit you will improve your heart health, but take it in stages and aim for a date when you would like to have stopped smoking. If you need any support, there are various stop smoking community groups locally and support of your family and friends will help too.
- Reduce or cut out alcohol. Over time, drinking too much alcohol will increase your blood pressure, putting your arteries at risk of becoming blocked, as well as damage your liver. By cutting down, or out, alcohol you will also save your yourself the massive calories which are contained in drinks. One pint pint of beer contains 227 calories, which is the same as a large donut, or a large glass of wine at 250 calories.
- Do things that make you smile and enjoy. By regularly doing things which you enjoy will give you a sense of well-being and positivity, which can only work well with a healthy and active lifestyle. You could join a community group with an interest you share, take up a hobby, or get back into a sport which you enjoy.
- Maintain a healthy weight. By keeping your BMI in the healthy zone you are less likely to have any health issues associated with being overweight, including heart disease. By adopting a healthy balanced diet, and being as active as possible, you could keep your BMI between 18.5 and 25. If you’re a member at our gyms you can use the Tanita Body Analysis to monitor that your whole body composition.
A few final thoughts:
Prevention is better than cure. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you or that you’ll start to look after your body better when you are older. Heart issues can arise at any time of life, from inherited genetic conditions to poor lifestyle caused problems. It is far better to look after yourself from a younger age. Follow our guide and although it may be tough to begin with, you will soon feel that you are becoming fitter, and you’ll be better in yourself physically and mentally.
Chris, Fitness co-ordinator, Bramcote Leisure Centre