About 10,000 people die in Ireland every year from cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 36% of all deaths. However, many of these deaths can be prevented. Here are 8 positive steps towards a healthier heart that will help to minimise the risks of heart disease and stroke.
8 Steps to a Healthy Heart
– Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. More than half of Irish adults over the age of 45 have high blood pressure. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, and the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked. You can have your blood pressure checked by a GP, a nurse or in a pharmacy. Controlling your blood pressure through lifestyle changes or medication can reduce your risk of heart disease.
– Take Regular Exercise
Regular exercise can improve your physical and mental health, and can reduce your risk of heart disease. A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, 5 times a week, is recommended. Aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, dancing or swimming are good choices.
– Lower Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level can reduce your risk of heart disease. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to have it checked, usually by a fasting blood sample. You can lower your cholesterol through a healthy diet or medication.
– Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as improving your overall health. A good start is eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
– Stop Smoking
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and other health problems. A smoker is twice as likely to have a heart attack as a non-smoker. Stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
– Cut Down on Salt
Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 1 teaspoon of salt per day is the maximum recommended amount. A lot of the salt we eat is hidden in processed food. Ways to reduce your salt intake include reducing the amount of processed food you eat and avoiding adding salt to food.
– Reduce Stress
High levels of stress can affect your risk of heart disease. Things you can do to reduce stress include: talking to someone about how you feel, getting enough sleep, getting regular exercise, eating healthily and prioritising time to relax.
– Lose Weight
Being overweight increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. If you are overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can significantly improve your physical and mental health.