Heart health: preventing heart disease
If you're after some practical pointers for looking after your ticker – and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease – start by taking a long hard look at your lifestyle. Are you doing everything you can at your stage in life?
“Basically, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease should start as early as possible,” says Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. “Life expectancy is increasing year by year, but what's really important is maintaining a good quality of life if we are going to be living for longer.”
A good place to start is to review what you're eating and how much regular exercise you're getting. “People in their 50s and 60s these days are still classed as quite young,” Christopher continues. “By reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, you are giving yourself a better chance of a good quality of life. This is especially important if, as predictions suggest, you are going to be living for longer.”
Your healthy heart checklist
You can support good cardiovascular health by following a few simple steps. NHS Choices provides the following helpful hints for preventing heart disease:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Be more physically active
- Keep to a healthy weight
- Give up smoking
- Reduce your alcohol consumption
- Keep your blood pressure under control
- Keep your diabetes under control
- Take any medication prescribed for you
Help from the experts
“If you are 40 or above and live in England, take advantage of the free health checks the NHS offers,” Christopher advises. You can find out whether you're eligible for an NHS health check by asking at your GP surgery. Alternatively, look out for an invitation in the post.
“You will have your cholesterol and your blood pressure checked - and your height and weight – to make sure that they're all in normal range. You'll also have a full assessment in to your risk of many different conditions.
“High blood pressure and high cholesterol are often silent problems and they don't manifest until the later stages of the condition, which can result in coronary heart disease. This can be quite frightening for people who are suddenly being told that they're at risk of a heart attack, having never had symptoms before.”
To read up on the many aspects of heart health, from preventing heart disease to living with a heart condition, visit the British Heart Foundation. You will find a wealth of information, including downloadable leaflets, the healthy recipe app and help to quit smoking. You can also find out more about healthy hearts on the benenden health website.
If you are worried about your health, or if you have hypertension or a heart condition and have a question about your treatment, make an appointment to see your doctor. Members of benenden health may also call the 24-hour GP advice line.