Published on 4th February 2022
Heart disease affects more than 17 million people worldwide – and cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death globally. With the incidence of heart disease rising, medics have identified a link between modern lifestyles and increasing instances of heart disease.
The good news is that heart disease and its potentially life-threatening impact can be preventable in many cases – and with some straightforward lifestyle changes you can maximise heart health and reduce the chances of heart-disease related issues such as stroke, DVT and cardiac arrest.
Today we’re sharing this simple and informative guide to looking after your heart – including which foods are best for heart health (and which to avoid) and exercises that can help to strengthen your heart.
Tips and advice such as this can give you the best possible chance of leading a full healthy life – but it’s important to note that regardless of how young, fit, or healthy a person is, anybody at any time can have an SCA – more on this below.
Heart disease can be influenced by a number of medical concerns, including:
Lifestyle-related risk factors for cardiovascular disease include:
Limiting these behaviours and focusing on installing healthy new habits can help to dramatically lower the incidence of heart disease and with it, the risk of SCA.
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet filled with plenty of wholefoods is the key to a healthy heart. Modern diets often contain many foods that can be detrimental to heart health, which we’ve also included below.
A heart-healthy diet has a few key components – including:
Fruit and vegetables: Load up on fresh, nutrient-rich seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach, kale and cabbage which are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Healthy fats: Mono-unsaturated fats have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease – find them in nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados.
Whole grains: Wholegrains contain all three nutrient-rich elements of the grain – and include brown rice, oats, rye, barley and quinoa. Replace your usual pasta, rice and bread with heart-healthy alternatives for a simple swap!
Lean proteins: Switch up red meat for lean chicken, turkey, fish, beans and plant-based alternatives like tofu – many of which have been shown to decrease levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
There are also a few things to avoid, including:
*Fatty, fried foods and snacks
*Refined, processed foods
*Foods high in salt
Focusing on a nutrient-dense diet rich in vitamins and minerals your body needs can also minimise your probability of developing other diseases and illnesses linked to heart disease, such as diabetes and stroke.
Regular exercise is key to keeping your heart fit and healthy. All types of physical activity can be beneficial for heart health – but some have a slight advantage over others, including:
*Aerobic exercise: Cardio helps to get the heart pumping and improves circulation, lowering blood pressure and heart rate simultaneously. Aerobic activities include cycling, swimming, running or jogging and playing sports like tennis and football.
*Weights and resistance: Resistance training supports improved body composition, lowering overall body fat levels which can be a risk factor for heart disease. Some studies have shown that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training can help to raise good cholesterol (HDL) whilst lowering levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).
*Adding more movement to your everyday activities: If you have a busy lifestyle and struggle to find time to dedicate solely to physical activity, consider some easy ways you can incorporate movement into your everyday life. For example, you could get off the bus a stop early, take the stairs instead of the lift or ditch the car and bring out your bike when taking a short journey. Every step counts!
Most importantly, remember that regular movement needn’t be a chore or involve going to the gym or an exercise class if that’s not your thing. Making movement enjoyable is important and will ensure you keep it up as a sustainable habit moving forward.
Although we can all make simple lifestyle changes to help protect our heart health, sometimes the impact of heart disease isn’t preventable. This is highlighted by the incidence of SCA in even the fittest individuals like top-flight athletes – such as Fabrice Muamba, Iker Casillas and most recently the case of Christian Eriksen.
These cases also demonstrate how important quick and easy access to a defibrillator can be in sporting environments – to ensure that players and athletes can be revived with a good chance of survival should unexpected SCA occur.
Following Christian Eriksen’s SCA at the Euro 2020 the Premier League announced an effort to install over 2,000 defibrillators at grassroots facilities – with more major sporting associations expected to follow suit.
Read more on AED installation in sporting venues.