As one of the vital organs required for survival, the heart is responsible for pumping blood around our body. National Heart Month is here to remind us of why heart health is so important and how we can keep our hearts healthy and happy.
In order to maintain a healthy heart, we need to treat it right by adopting healthy lifestyle choices. Without making those choices, we run the risk of developing conditions that will either reduce the quality or length of our lives. In the UK alone, there are about 7.4 million people living with diseases that affect the heart and circulatory system, known collectively as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Of this 7 million people, about 2.6 million in particular live with coronary heart disease (CHD).
With around 7,400 people dying each month in the UK from heart disease or stroke, and with a quarter of deaths occurring in people under the age of 75, there’s a lot more that we can do to promote better heart health. That’s why every February is National Heart Month. Heart health consists of a number of different areas and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by information. But by continuing to raise awareness every year, we can all continue to gain knowledge about what we can do to boost our heart health. At Better Healthcare, we care about heart health – so we’ve compiled some of the most important information about the heart into an easy, digestible guide.
What is considered good heart health?
Heart health is all about maximising the health of our hearts. While we are all different and many of us have different levels of heart health, often dependent on genetic factors, age and pre-existing conditions, good heart health is all about making your heart as healthy as it can be. That doesn’t just include people who aren’t dealing with any sort of heart condition or cardiovascular disease but includes people who currently live with heart conditions. We can all maximise our heart health – irrespective of our current health status.
According to health.harvard.edu, the heart will beat about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime. That means that our heart will direct millions of gallons of blood around our body at all times. Blood not only carries the essentials to keeping our body healthy – such as oxygen, hormones and cells – but it also gets rid of any waste too. This is why when a heart stops, such as during a heart attack, it can have devastating (if not lethal) consequences.
As we get older, our heart health will naturally start to change. However, that doesn’t mean that every senior adult will have cardiovascular disease or, if they do, develop further complications. The chances of developing (or developing further) conditions is often dependent on the lifestyles that we live.
The importance of National Heart Month
Organised by the British Heart Foundation, the UK’s leading heart charity, National Heart Month acts as a spotlight to motivate people across the country to get healthier and make people more aware of heart and cardiovascular disease. The month also acts as a way to promote donations to the British Heart Foundation and it can help raise millions to go towards services and research that can help those living with heart conditions.
The types of heart and cardiovascular disease
While 7.4 million people live with heart and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the UK, there are many different types of conditions within that broad category. It’s highly likely that you know, or have known, someone living with a heart or cardiovascular disease. Some of the most common conditions include:
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Coronary heart disease (CHD)
- Strokes and transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs or mini strokes)
- Congenital heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Aortic disease
- Peripheral arterial disease
These conditions can range from causing minor health problems to being a life-threatening issue. According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases is the UK’s and the world’s number one killer.
Causes and risk factors of CVD
As there are many different types of CVD, there are a variety of risk factors and causes. The more of these risk factors that apply to you, then the more chance that they will combine to cause you to develop a CVD. Here are some of the main risk factors associated with developing heart or cardiovascular disease:
- Age: Most common in those over 50, your risk of developing CVD increases you get older
- Smoking: The substances in tobacco can narrow the arteries
- High blood pressure: If your blood pressure is too high, it will damage your blood vessels
- High cholesterol: This can narrow the blood vessels and increase the risk of blood clots
- Overweight or obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or over is usually an indicator of being overweight – increasing the risk of CVD
- Alcohol: Increased and excessive alcohol intake can increase blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight, which are all factors in developing CVD
- Inactivity: Regular exercise prevents high blood pressure, high cholesterol and reduces weight – which are all risk factors of CVD
- Family history: If members of your immediate family have developed a CVD, you are at an increased risk of developing one too
- Ethnicity: People of African, Caribbean or South Asian ethnicity are more likely to develop a CVD
There are other risk factors and causes, but the above factors are often the most telling indicators of why a person develops heart or cardiovascular disease during their lifetime.
How to improve your heart health
Even if you find that you are at risk of heart disease or any other cardiovascular disease, or if you are living with a heart condition, there is always a way to improve your heart health. While some of the risk factors are unavoidable – such as age, ethnicity and genetics – many can be mitigated through lifestyle changes.
These lifestyle changes include:
- Managing your diet and eating healthier (such as lowering cholesterol, saturated fat, salt and sugars levels, while raising fibre and fruit & veg intake)
- Monitoring your blood pressure
- Regular exercise (aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week which can include walking)
- Quitting smoking and/or drastically reducing your alcohol intake to less than 14 alcohol units a week
- Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight (typically under a BMI of 25)
- Regular heart checks
While committing to some of these changes may seem difficult, it can be a great idea to have a plan before you to start. It can also help to have your loved ones – such as friends and family – to be aware of your goals so that they can encourage you along the way. Remember to discuss your health with a medical professional before making any decisions.
Our post ‘How to improve your heart health’ takes a deeper look at keeping your heart healthy.
How Better Healthcare supports National Heart Month
If you or a loved one lives with heart or circulatory condition, it may present everyday life with several challenges – especially when it comes to getting around and getting things done.
At Better Healthcare, believe in empowering people to make positive changes that can be life-changing and life-extending which is why we support National Heart Month. Our primary concern is improving a person’s quality of life and allowing their loved ones some peace of mind. For people with below average heart health, this can be anything from helping with light housework to supporting them through the dietary changes that they may be making through our meal preparation support. Our care workers can offer encouragement to help you reach your goals and assist in preparing nutritious meals. Please note that our care workers will not pressure you to make any changes that you are not comfortable with.
To find out more about how our live-in care and home care workers can support a person at home, just give our friendly team a call on 0800 668 1234 or contact your local Better Healthcare office today.