Today is World Heart Day, an opportunity to learn about the importance of maintaining good heart health as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield Hospital make up the largest specialist heart centre in the UK and among the largest in Europe. Our experts are known throughout the world for their expertise, standard of care and research success.
We spoke with one of our experts, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation and consultant cardiologist at Royal Brompton Hospital, about some of her top tips for maintaining a healthy heart.
“This World Heart Day, I would encourage you to have a think about your heart health. Little changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference when it comes to lowering your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which remains one of the country’s biggest killers. Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can choose today that could help lower your risk of a future heart attack or stroke.”
- Know the symptoms of a heart attack: A heart attack is a medical emergency that can happen at any time to anyone, regardless of gender. It’s crucial that everyone knows the symptoms of a heart attack, as getting treatment quickly can save your life. Symptoms can vary between people, and can include pain or heaviness in your chest, discomfort spreading into your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach, and feeling sick, sweaty light-headed or short of breath.
- Manage your weight: For some of us, this can be easy to talk about and hard to do. It may help if you focus on making small, achievable, long-term changes, such as reducing your portion sizes. This can help get your weight and waist circumference into a healthy range and, importantly, keep it there.
- Eat well: A healthy balanced diet is vital for gut and heart health. Aim to eat less sugar or salt, avoid ultra-processed food, and instead eat more wholegrains, fruit and vegetables.
- Move more: Aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week. You don’t have to hit the gym – a brisk walk, or an activity like gardening can help keep you fit without spending a lot of money.
- Know your numbers: If you live in England and are between 40 and 74 years old, you may be invited to your free NHS Health Check – do go along as you will have your cardiovascular risk levels calculated and explained. Wherever you live, take opportunities to get your blood pressure checked.
- Bring down high blood pressure: If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, seek advice from your GP about how to lower it through diet, exercise, improving wellbeing, being kind to yourself and medication.
- Control your cholesterol: Avoid developing high cholesterol with a healthy balanced diet and take your medications if you are prescribed them.
- Stop smoking: If you’re a smoker, quitting for good is one of the best things you can do to help your heart. You may be able to get support from your GP or NHS stop smoking services.
- Be kind to yourself: Working to reduce your stress levels could lower your blood pressure and help you avoid developing unhealthy habits that you may turn to in order to cope. It’s also important to make sure you’re well rested, as getting enough sleep is important for both our general wellbeing and the health of our heart and blood vessels. Most adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Know your medical history and your family history: When you need medical advice, your doctor may need to know if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, or if you’ve had diabetes or high blood pressure during a pregnancy to assess your risks appropriately.