According to the World Health Organization, the UK has one of the highest rates of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) in the world and it is the leading cause of death not just in the UK, but worldwide. With this is mind, it’s important to take your heart health seriously. This disease does affect more men, but after the age of 50, the risk for men and women becomes similar, so women need to keep their hearts healthy too.
What is heart disease?
CVD describes a number of conditions caused by a build up of fatty plaques in the arteries. These blockages can cause serious health problems such as angina, heart attack, stroke and heart failure. The fatty substance is what we call, ‘cholesterol’ and there’s strong evidence to suggest high cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
What are the risk factors?
The main risk factors for developing CVD are:
- Having a family history of the disease
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Eating a diet high in saturated fats
- High blood pressure
What can you do to protect your heart?
Even if your family history puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease, there are a wide range of things you can do to keep that risk to a minimum.
- Get your cholesterol levels checked – If you don’t keep an eye on your cholesterol levels you won’t know whether it’s heading in the right direction or not. Here at Bluecrest Health Screening we offer Cholesterol Checks to help you stay aware of your cholesterol levels; the first step towards better heart health!
- Read food labels – Men should be eating no more than 30g of saturated fats per day and 20g for women. As a guide, a product containing 5g or more of saturated fat per 100g is regarded as high, 1.5g-5g is considered medium and under 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g is considered low.
- Manage your weight – We know this is easier said than done, but successful weight management will significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease and a whole range of other chronic illnesses.
- Exercise regularly – Whether this is gentle walking each day or something more vigorous, find something you enjoy or can at least manage to do most days. Exercise increases your levels of good cholesterol (HDL), helping to move fatty deposits from the arteries to the liver to be broken down.
- Stop smoking – This is so important for your general health, but smoking causes narrowing of the arteries and prevents your good cholesterol from moving fatty deposits from the arteries to the liver to be broken down. It’s a recipe for disaster for your heart.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fats – Cutting down your consumption of products such as biscuits, crisps, cakes, meat pies, processed and fatty cuts of meat means cutting down on the amount of saturated fat you’ll be eating, which can increase your cholesterol levels. At the same time, increase consumption of foods containing unsaturated fats such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.
Staggeringly, reducing the UK population’s LDL cholesterol levels by just 5% would prevent 64,000 cases of cardiovascular diseases. As a nation we need to tackle this problem to help create a healthier, happier future. Using the advice above, you can start making changes to keep your heart healthy for many years to come!