With Irish Heart month being celebrated in September and World Heart Day taking place on the 29th of this month, it’s time to remind ourselves that our hearts play a vital role every single day of your lives. It’s important we look after and protect our heart and safefood has four practical tips on how you can love yours.
1. Stay physically active. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every week with muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
2. Eat a balanced diet. Aim to eat a balanced diet that is low in saturated fat, filled with high-fibre foods such as wholegrain or wholemeal cereals, breads, potatoes, pasta and rice, fruit and vegetables, includes moderate amounts of reduced fat or low-fat milk and dairy products and has some meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. Make sure to include oily fish once a week and limit processed meats like sausages, bacon or ham.
Avoid foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (not every day). They are not needed for good health.
3. Cut back on salt. Lowering your salt intake to 6g a day or less can help lower your blood pressure, meaning your heart doesn’t have to work overtime. A lot of the salt we consume is already added to processed foods and sauces so try to cut down on those. You know foods are low in salt if the label says it contains “less than or equal to 0.3g salt per 100g”. Foods are high in salt if the label says “greater than or equal to 1.5g salt per 100g”.
4. Stop smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. By not smoking or quitting now, you can protect your heart, lungs and blood vessels from damage. The good news is that there is great support from the HSE to help you quit. Get in touch with the National Smokers’ Quitline on 1800 201 203 or visit www.quit.ie.
You can help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) by following these healthy tips but if you have any concerns about your heart health, please always visit your GP.
Some other risk factors that may increase your risk of developing CVD include being over 40, being male, having a family history of heart disease or being from certain ethnic backgrounds. These are factors we have no control over so it is important we do all we can to keep our heart healthy.