Heart health and how to avoid a heart attack

grandparents with grandchildren

How to avoid a heart attack

There are around 270,000 heart attacks in the UK each year. Many of these could have been avoided if the people involved had taken the steps necessary to get healthy and stay healthy.

If you smoke, one of the most important things you can do is to give up smoking. The last words of my father before he died of a heart attack were: “I’m dying for a fag.” He didn’t realise how true those words were.

If you need help, the British Heart Foundation offers lots of support: there’s a 10 step plan to quit, information on weight and giving up smoking, and you can even sign up to receive an email every other day helping you to stay motivated over a seven week period.

Smoking has various affects on the heart. Carbon monoxide attaches to red blood cells, so that in smokers up to half the blood can be carrying carbon monoxide rather than oxygen – no wonder many smokers are breathless. Nicotine stimulates the body to produce adrenaline which makes the heart beat faster and raises blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder. Giving up is one of the best things you can do for your heart and those you love – it’s also good for your skin, your lungs and your finances.

Being overweight doesn’t help your heart, particularly if your excess weight is round your waist or your belly. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables and cutting down on processed food which tend to be high in sugar, salt and additives are important for us in lots of ways, not only for our heart. It’s possible to prepare healthy salads and nutritious meals easily and cheaply with a little knowledge – it doesn’t have to be expensive and difficult.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, amazing nutrients that among other things help to prevent the damage that ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol does to our bodies. Having a high intake of antioxidants can also help you to look younger and feel better in so many ways. Check out my post about whether it’s best to have cooked or raw veggies.

Being active is absolutely essential for a healthy heart. Your heart is a muscle, and so – like other muscles – it needs exercising. Exercise will make it stronger. If you have a pre-existing heart condition, start slowly, but your heart can become stronger, giving you more stamina and energy. Aerobic exercise is particularly important. This is any kind of activity that increases your heart and breathing rates.

Having a healthy heart is important – it can make your life so much better, so take the steps you need to take care of it.