30 Sep, 14
Your heart is the engine that keeps you running and whatever your age, there are things you can do to help keep your heart healthy.
- Watch your alcohol intake
Alcohol can cause rhythm abnormalities and damage your heart muscle, so ensure you’re staying within recommended limits. If you’re a woman, that’s 14 units a week (max. 3 units on any one day). For men it’s 21 units per week (max. 4 units on any day). 1 unit is equivalent to half a pint of average strength beer, cider or lager, or a measure of spirits, while 2 units is equivalent to a standard 175ml glass of wine.
- Eat a balanced diet
Eat as many types and colours of fruit and vegetables as possible, ensuring you get both fibre and a wide selection of vitamins and minerals, and several sources of protein too (meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, legumes and pulses). Choose wholegrain bread, rice or pasta and avoid or reduce foods high in sugar or fat.
- Give up smoking
Smoking doubles your heart attack risk and there’s plenty of support available for quitters, including a range of nicotine replacement products. Ask your doctor for advice and see the British Heart Foundation’s useful guide, Time to Quit.
Like all muscles, the heart works better when used regularly. Any exercise is beneficial, but raising your heart rate for around two and a half hours a week is ideal. This can be divided into short sessions – a brisk 20 minute daily walk is ideal!
- Take your medication properly
Always follow instructions on your medicines, and don’t stop them without consulting your doctor. If you buy over the counter medicines, check the leaflet or ask the pharmacist to ensure they’re suitable and don’t interact with what you’re already taking.
- Know the symptoms of a heart attack
While chest pain (often feeling like a squeeze) is the most common heart attack symptom, many people, particularly women, may not have chest pain – or realise they’re having a heart attack . Symptoms may be mild, develop slowly or come and go, particularly if you have diabetes. So be aware of other symptoms: dizziness/light-headedness, sweating (normally a cold sweat), nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath/panting, heartburn, pain in the jaw, neck, back, left arm or abdomen, severe or sudden fatigue, overpowering anxiety, and coughing or wheezing.
- Know what to do when a heart attack occurs
If in doubt, always call 999. The NHS recommends that anyone possibly suffering a heart attack should take 300mg of Aspirin (one adult tablet), providing they’re not allergic to it. This helps maintain healthy blood supply to the heart. If you’re the patient, only move as much as is necessary to get help. If you’re attending the patient, only fetch aspirin if you don’t need to leave the patient for more than a moment to get it.
Keeping your heart healthy is one of the most important things you can do, so what change will you make today?