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February is a good a time to think about the health of your heart. Not only is Valentine’s Day approaching (when you can’t move for heart-filled cards and heart-shaped balloons) it is also the month in which the British Heart Foundation hold their annual campaign to raise money for heart disease research.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the UK, incorporating several different conditions such as heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, there are several easy lifestyle changes you can make to help keep your heart healthy during February and for the rest of your life.
A good diet benefits more than just your heart, but the truth is you can’t have a guide to healthier living without including good food. There are plenty of diet plans out there and many of them claim to boost the effectiveness of your heart, but experts have agreed for years now that the best eating habits revolve around balance and moderation. Get your five fruit and veg a day, avoid excessive amounts of salt and sugar, and moderate your fat intake. You can enjoy what you eat without giving in to fast food and unhealthy options. ‘The picky eater’ is an example of a healthy eating advice blog which abides by this common sense approach.
As with eating well, no blog about improving your health would be complete without mentioning exercise. Aside from burning the fat that might otherwise clog your arteries, the heart requires regular activity, just like any other muscle. Leading an active lifestyle and causing your heart to beat harder occasionally is a brilliant way to strengthen the muscle. It’s important that you are careful and understand your limits but, generally speaking, the more effectively you make your heart beat, the better it will be at it’s job.
Want to give your heart a break? Stop stressing. In today’s world we are increasingly tapped into work, with laptops, phones and social networks meaning that, for most people, the office is just a password away. Turning all the tech off and just being in your head for a little while is good for you. Relaxation is key, and getting away from your work-riddled phone or laptop can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Alcohol can be a touchy subject and the research surrounding its affect on health is often ambiguous. However, several studies suggest that a glass of wine of day (for women – two for men) will keep the doctor away. Now it doesn’t have to be wine, but according to recent research, alcohol may help the heart by increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. But there is a balance that is very important – too much alcohol will bring too many calories, and moderation is essential for staying healthy.
Men who drink five glasses of water day are 54% less likely to have a fatal heart attack than those who have only two or less. Studies suggest that the water dilutes the blood, making it less likely to clot, and this is likely to improve heart health for both men and women. As with anything though, even water should be consumed in moderation to avoid diluting the essential sodium levels in your blood, although you would have to drink several litres at once to risk this. Many people are in fact in a constant state of dehydration, and increasing your fluid intake will not only be good for your heart, but can clear your skin, help with headaches and make you feel more alert too.