August 9, 2022

How healthy is your heart?

After years of declining heart rates, experts warn, the numbers are rising again.


A heart attack can affect men and women, but there are steps you can take to protect your heart.

Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of death in private homes in England and Wales between January 2020 and November 2021.

Meanwhile, male deaths were 18% higher than before epidemics and female deaths were 10% higher.

Obesity and poor lifestyle choices are considered responsible.

The most significant increase was in women aged 40-49 and men aged 15-34, University of Oxford experts said.

“We have a vision of an overweight, middle-aged man eating a big fish and chips and then having a heart attack,” says NHS consultant cardiologist Kevin Fox.

“It’s true, but heart disease affects both men and women.

“In women, this stereotype doesn’t always fit, but they are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer.”

“Although people can do a lot to protect their hearts, it is more than just not smoking.”

So what can we do to keep our hearts in good condition?

1. Quit ‘Lockdown’ Bad Habits.

Smoking rates in the UK have been steadily declining – until the lockdown.

In the first year of the epidemic, cigarette sales increased by 7% and tobacco sales by 36%, with children aged 16 to 24 more likely to start puffing.

“The best thing you can do to help keep your heart healthy is to stop smoking,” says Kevin.

“If it’s a habit you started in lockdown or you went back to when we were all stuck in the house, the best thing you can do is quit.

“There are many things you can try, from nicotine patches to e-cigarettes. Consult your pharmacist.”

And it’s not just your own habits that can put you at risk – passive smoking can also cause heart problems.

Kevin adds, “It’s bad for you to live in a smoky environment. Encourage those around you to give up, too.”

2. Cook fresh.

Kevin says, “Cooking at home using fresh ingredients is great for you.

“If you make your own spaghetti bolognese or vegetable soup, it will be much healthier than what you bought at the supermarket.

“It will have less salt and less saturated fat.

“There are plenty of cookbooks and programs out there to help you cook at home relatively easily.

“Wrapping the salmon flat in foil and putting it in the oven won’t be more difficult than sticking it to a piece of breadcrumbs, but the difference is significant in terms of heart health.”

3. Floss your teeth.

“Evidence suggests that good dental health can prevent heart disease,” says Kevin.

Bacteria that cause gum disease can spread to other parts of the body through blood vessels and valves and cause inflammation and damage, increasing your risk of heart attack and heart disease.

Dental bacteria are also a leading cause of endocarditis, a potentially fatal infection of the lining of the heart.

“You can reduce your risk by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flushing daily,” says Kevin.

If you see blood on your toothbrush or while brushing your teeth, you may have gum disease. See your dentist.

4. Exhale

Regular exercise is very important for heart protection.

“Thirty minutes of exercise a day is still a good rule of thumb,” says Kevin. “It doesn’t have to be a huge pile of sweat on the floor at the end, but you should breathe a little at the end and feel tired.

“The heart is a muscle and like any other, it benefits from exercise.”

Exercise will make your heart and circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol levels and keep your blood pressure healthy.

“It’s okay if you feel hungry after exercising,” says Kevin.

“Take a cup of cereal bar or homemade muesli, that’s fine.

“Maybe avoid Mars bars or other high-fat and sugary snacks.”

Heart Attack: Learn the Symptoms

Not sure about the symptoms of a heart attack? These are the keys to be aware of:

  • Chest pain or chest pain that is sudden and does not go away.
  • The pain can spread to your left or right arm or to your neck, jaw, back or abdomen.
  • You may also feel sick, sweaty, have a mild headache or shortness of breath.
  • Excessive coughing or wheezing due to fluid accumulation in the lungs is a less common symptom.
  • A sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel like a panic attack.
  • The level of pain can vary, with some experiencing severe chest pain while others simply feel uncomfortable or feel pain, such as indigestion.

5. Take a desk break.

If you strive to be fit in 30 minutes of daily exercise, any movement, no matter how small, is good for the heart.

“It could just be getting up from your desk every hour and taking a walk in the office,” says Kevin.

“When you have a job and a family, it can be difficult to get fit in exercise, so now that people are going back to work, there is a risk that we may sit longer.

“Get up, walk around the office. No movement is better than nothing.”

6. Check food labels.

“Salt is important, and it is better for your heart not to add too much salt to your diet,” says Kevin.

“Processed food often contains salt because it enhances the taste.

“Many manufacturers have tried to reduce the amount of salt in their food,” he said.

“You can get low-sugar and low-salt versions of everything from tomato sauce, soup and roasted beans.

“If you are buying this food, read the packet and look for less salt and healthier options.

“Not all ready meals are made equal. If you buy them, choose the ones that are best for you.

“It’s a small change that can make a big difference in your overall heart health.”

7. Manage stress.

Stress is not the only cause of heart disease, but it can be linked to unhealthy habits that increase your risk, such as eating in moderation.

“You need to find a way to manage stress and anxiety that works for you,” says Kevin.

“For some people who may be going out for exercise.

For others, it may be reading, meditation, yoga, or bathing.

“One size fits all, you have to figure out what works for you.

“Learn to recognize the symptoms of stress, such as irritability and sleep disturbances, so that you can handle it properly.”

8. Limit red meat.

Kevin says, “The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ is very true.

“You don’t have to be a vegetarian to have a healthy heart, but it’s not good if you’re eating steak every day for lunch and dinner.

“The number of times you can eat red meat will vary depending on the size of the portion but if you are doing a modest serving, two or three times a week, you are on the right track.”

9. Take a nap.

According to a study published in BMJ, enjoying a nap two or three times a week can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 48%.

And researchers at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center found that people who get six to eight hours of sleep a night have a lower risk of heart disease.

“Scientists aren’t sure why sleep benefits the heart, but we do know that a good night’s sleep benefits heart health,” says Kevin.

Some researchers have suggested that people are more likely to eat sugary foods if they are tired, but those who bother at night sometimes show signs of inflammation, a condition that affects the heart and circulatory system. Is connected to

10. Fight the bulge.

“We know that obesity is not just for your heart, but for your health in general, as Kovid has taught us,” says Kevin.

“Obesity is a life-threatening condition. If fat is distributed around your waist, it can be even worse for your heart if your body fat is evenly distributed.

“Larger vessels with bellies are more at risk.”

Eating right and exercising will help you move those unwanted pounds around Madrid.

“It’s about eating the right foods,” says Kevin.

“Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber foods and make sure you’re getting five a day.

“There are good oils and bad fats.

“Bad fats are things you should avoid and are often found in processed and fried foods such as microwave creases or takeaways.

“If you have a salad, add as much olive oil as you like.

“Mediterranean cuisine is the best for the heart.”

11. Get help.

During the first lockdown, daily admissions for heart attack or heart failure decreased by more than 50%.

“A lot of people aren’t coming forward because they’re afraid the NHS is a big burden,” Kevin said.

“We’ve all seen cancer statistics, but the same is true with heart disease.

“If you think you are having a heart attack or your symptoms are getting worse, don’t give up because you think the health service is too busy. Seek help.

“If you think you may be at risk, you should also have access to health services, for example if close family members have heart problems.

“There are many ways to get help and it could be a pharmacist, a practice nurse or your GP.

“Score charts can measure your risk by looking at your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.

“At most, it can be done with a pharmacist instead of booking a GP appointment.

“There’s no point in burying your head in the sand.”

Kevin says to remember that the NHS is open to you and to you - don't hesitate if you have any symptoms of a heart attack or need a checkup.


Kevin says to remember that the NHS is open to you and to you – don’t hesitate if you have any symptoms of a heart attack or need a checkup.Credit: Getty

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