29th September is World Heart Day which aims to spread awareness about cardiovascular disease (CVD), the world’s number one killer. CVD, which includes heart disease and stroke, claims an astounding 17.9mn lives a year so anything we can do to prevent and control it has got to be a good thing, right?
The World Heart Federation estimates that 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided. That’s a huge figure and means that we can all take a degree of control over our destiny to stop ourselves falling victim to CVD. Small changes can make a big difference so here are five things you can do to protect your heart:
1. Eat well
I’m sure you know the drill – less sugar, salt and fat, more fruit and vegetables, keep well hydrated – but perhaps you have trouble applying it in your own life. Here are some swaps that are easy to make to help out your heart:
- Ditch fizzy drinks, which are loaded with sugar, for water, fruit infusions or unsweetened juice
- Pass on the biscuits and cake and snack on a piece of fruit or some nuts instead
- Get in the kitchen and cook from scratch rather than taking the easy option of a ready-made meal which is likely to have high sugar, salt and fat content. There are loads of quick and easy recipe ideas online. Try BBC Good Food for inspiration.
- Make a healthy salad to take to work for lunch rather than grabbing fast food
2. Cut down on alcohol
Excessive alcohol and a healthy heart are not common bedfellows. The link between drinking too much alcohol and high blood pressure is well documented and when your blood pressure rises it puts a strain on your heart which can make you more susceptible to CVD. Drink within recommended guidelines, have regular alcohol-free periods, for example, limit your drinking to the weekend, and avoid binge drinking.
3. Get active
Your heart will thank you if you get into the habit of doing regular exercise. 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week is the ideal amount to aim for but it could just as well be 75 minutes of vigorous activity over the course of a week if that’s more your style. A brisk walk counts as 30 minutes of moderate exercise so perhaps that is something you can incorporate into your daily routine? Use an app to track your steps – it’s really motivating. Another great tip to make it easier to stick to an exercise regime is to find a buddy to do it with you.
4. Don’t smoke
There are literally no disadvantages to not smoking – you will smell nicer, you will feel better, your bank account will benefit and it’s the single best thing you could do for your heart.
5. Make sure you have health cover
Having swift access to healthcare if a problem arises with your heart (or any other health problem for that matter) could be the difference between life and death. If you’re an expat living in Asia that will usually mean having comprehensive private medical cover. Health insurance transfers hospital bills and medical costs (aside from deductibles) to your insurer and means that if something does go wrong with your ticker, the extra costs won’t send it into overdrive, potentially exacerbating the problem. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t be the one footing the bill.
You only get one heart, it makes sense to look after it! #loveyourheart