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An ode to Valentine’s day: tips for a healthy heart

Cardiovascular disease was the UK’s biggest killer in 2010, just ahead of diabetes and cancer.  292 million prescriptions were issued for cardiac medication in 2011.

There are a number of preventative lifestyle and dietary measures which are easy to adopt, listed here:

  • Reduce stress!

    Stress activates your fight or flight caveman response, which is fine if you are being chased by a wild animal, but not so great if it is constantly kept active and you’re just sitting in an office.  Constant stress hormone release eventually disturbs blood sugar metabolism and increases both cardiovascular and diabetes risks.

  • Stop smoking:

    it increases cardiovascular risk by 60% compared to non-smokers.   Try ear acupuncture, EFT or herbal medicine to break addiction.

  • Eat at least 5 pieces of different coloured fruit and vegetables a day where possible:

    different coloured plants contain different phytochemicals and antioxidants.    Plate should be at least 50% vegetables.

  • Watch your weight:

    obesity itself is a risk factor for both hypertension and diabetes.  Avoid refined sugar and carbohydrate and stick to wholegrains for lower glycaemic load foods.

  • Choose your fats wisely:

    reduce saturated fat consumption and do not cook with cold pressed vegetable oils.  If it starts to smoke, throw it down the sink as it then turns into a trans fat which your body cannot recognise.   Try cooking with coconut oil or steam fry with water.  Increase oily fish intake – the smaller the fish, the better as it will contain less mercury contamination.

  • Watch your alcohol intake:

    not only is a pint of beer packed with calories, but it’s oestrogenic (not great if you are a man).  If you’re going to have a drink, stick to a glass of red wine, it contains resveratrol, an antioxidant with a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular health.

  • A happy relationship:

    getting physical with a significant other releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone also released during breastfeeding), which reduces stress.  Laughing causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and reducing pressure.

  • Sleep:

    too little or too much can statistically increase your risk of heart disease by 48% and 38% respectively.  The perfect amount? 7-8 hours.

  • Move!

    A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk, but sitting in front of the TV for more than 4 hours daily increases cardiovascular risk by approximately 80%.  Get out there and do some regular aerobic exercise to improve oxygenation and detoxification (20 minutes a day minimum).

  • A coffee a day:

    my grandmother used to say a cup of coffee a day tones the heart, and she was right!  It’s linked with lower arrhythmia risk.  Avoid syrup-laden lattes.  This is not how coffee was originally designed to be drunk.

  • Get a pet:

    having a dog or a cat reduces cardiovascular risk.  Dogs make you take them for walks, thus making you more active, but because they provide enjoyment, they reduce stress levels.

  • Follow a more plant-based diet:

    vegetarianism is associated with improved cholesterol levels and a 32% reduction in cardiovascular risk.   Foods from the onion (leeks, shallots, onions, garlic) and brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale) families will help with liver detoxification and proper cholesterol synthesis.  Celery is a useful mineral-packed diuretic.  Ensure plenty of fibre to sweep toxins from the gastrointestinal tract.

For more information please take a look at the British Heart Foundation’s website.

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