World Heart Day – How to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease
By Mollie Cahill
World Heart Day is an annual global event, created by the World Heart Federation, in order to promote awareness and help combat cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD continues to have a devastating impact on the world’s population, contributing to 17.9 million deaths in 2019 alone, and being the number one cause of death among chronic diseases.
So, what changes can we make to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease?
Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol. Its never too late to start making these changes and there are plenty of resources available to help you achieve better heart health!
The food you eat has a big impact on your health. But you don’t have to go hungry or give up some foods forever! Eating a varied balanced diet, in the correct portion sizes is important for health. Eating lots of fruits, vegetable, wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats will help your body to perform at its best. Try to cut down on food and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar. Keep an eye out for the traffic light system on food labels, as this will greatly help you choose the right foods for your body.
Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. Too much fat, particularly around your waist, can affect your health.
Physical activity helps to prevent and treat a multitude of conditions including heart disease, stroke, obesity, and hypertension (high blood pressure). Adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Exercise just once or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. Its not always possible to get to the gym every day – taking the stairs or deciding to walk that quick drive to the shop can improve your cardiovascular health!
The NHS Exercise guidelines offer advice for people of all ages and abilities and the recommendations can be found in the link at the bottom of this post!
Giving up smoking is the best thing you can do for your general health. Even if you have smoked for years, quitting will reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases. After 1 year of quitting, your risk of a heart attack is half of that of a smoker.
Cutting down your alcohol consumption is an important step for protecting your heart and overall health. It’s important to keep within the recommended alcohol guidelines – not drinking more than 14 units each week.
We all feel stressed at times – the feeling alone won’t lead to heart and circulatory diseases. But it could lead you to make choices that aren’t good for your health. Managing stress your effectively, helps to make the small changes that can improve your life and health. If you are feeling down or less motivated, there is always a friendly ear to listen and if you feel overwhelmed there are plenty of tools to help you.
Below are some helpful resources and links to organisations that you can utilise for free to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease:
There are lots of free workouts you can access via Youtube such as this one:
Don’t forget to take time to move while working and stretch your back, neck and shoulder muscles after being sat at your desk for a long period!