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Simple steps to a stronger heart


Yet, full recovery and a good future quality of life also depend on making important healthy lifestyle changes that help the heart to heal.

Medical science has transformed the treatment of heart disease in the past 50 years and now many people survive a major incident. Yet, full recovery and a good future quality of life also depend on making important healthy lifestyle changes that help the heart to heal.

Exercise

Exercise is vital for your heart and is one of the cornerstones of your recovery programme. By exerting yourself you are actually making youar heart stronger so it is perfectly safe to sweat or pant a little.

Exercise can help lower blood pressure, improve circulation and help control your weight.The ideal level of exercise is where you get warm and slightly out of breath but are still able to talk.

Avoid stress

Stress contributes to heart problems rather than directly causing them. Finding ways to reduce stress will put you back on the road to heart health. Guided meditations are a simple way to learn to relax and can easily be downloaded from the Internet.

Watching your favourite comedian is also a great way to combat heart disease since laughing out loud helps boost blood flow by 25 per cent, the equivalent of a stroll in the park or taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Heart experts recommend 15 minutes of laughter every day.

Stop smoking

Giving up smoking is the kindest gift you can give your heart. If you've had a heart attack, quitting reduces your risk of a subsequent fatal heart attack by 25 per cent.
In the UK 11 million people have managed to give up.

There are many ways to stop, including prescription quit-smoking drugs, going cold turkey, nicotine replacement therapy, hypnotherapy and talking to the smoking helpline. Think hard about which method will work best for you.

Brush your teeth daily

"If you don't brush your teeth your mouth can become infected with bacteria which cause inflammation," says Judy O'Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.

Inflammation in the body, including gum disease, is a significant risk factor for heart disease.Dentists recommend brushing twice a day.

Lose weight
Losing weight will give a huge boost to your chances of a lasting recovery. The best way to lose weight is not by crash dieting but by reducing your calorie intake to a realistic amount.

Eating between 1,500 and 1,800 calories a day helps most people, with the aim to lose one to two pounds a week. You are more likely to keep the weight off for good at this steady route.

You can lose weight more quickly if you combine physical activity with your diet and it doesn't matter what sort of exercise you choose. Even gardening or housework can help you burn calories.

Improve your diet
Major studies done in the US have proved conclusively that an unhealthy diet is a leading cause of heart disease and that eating the right foods can be as effective as medication or other medical intervention in recovery from heart disease.

Your heart-friendly diet should be low in fat but you do need some fat for energy and to absorb important nutrients. Unsaturated fats such as fish and olive oils help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack. Saturated fats (mostly animal fats) including butter and lard increase the risk and should be avoided. You should also cut back on salt.

 Your action plan at-a-glance
• Buy yourself a treat with the money you're saving from not buying cigarettes.

• Add extra walking to your day. For instance, walk to the next bus stop and take the stairs instead of the lift.

• Buy low-sodium salt and consume no more than 6g a day.

• Eat three portions of salmon or fresh tuna a week for their high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

• Learn when to say 'no' to family and friends as living for others is a major cause of chronic stress.


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