10 Ways To Future-Proof Your Heart

10 Ways To Future-Proof Your Heart

According to recent statistics, the number of people under the age of 75 dying from heart disease has risen for the first time in fifty years. With increasingly sedentary lifestyles and soaring rates of obesity and diabetes, it’s never been more important to think about your heart. We asked an NHS GP and a cardiology expert what we should be doing to future-proof our health…

Don't Ignore The Problem

“Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and worldwide, and the most common cause of death in younger individuals. Heart disease is more common in men than women, although there are currently 800,000 women living with heart disease in the UK. Although women are more aware of conditions like breast cancer, coronary heart disease is a bigger risk overall, as it kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer.” – Dr Michael Papadakis, Consultant Cardiologist 

Eat Less Salt

“Consuming higher quantities of salt has been shown to raise blood pressure by raising the amount of sodium in your blood. Having high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for developing heart disease. In fact, high blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer – there are no symptoms and it can therefore go unnoticed. Salt is hidden in lots of foods, such as breakfast cereals and foods that classically have a sweeter taste. While it’s unrealistic to cut out salt completely, aim to consume less than 5g of salt per day and try not to add additional salt to your food.” – Dr Gaurav Sabharwal, GP & Founder of One5 Health

Keep Moving

“Exercise is the most underutilised tool we have available to promote heart health. It can reduce the burden of risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Frequent exercise is associated with an additional two to seven years of life. HIIT has had a lot of press in recent years and has been proven to be more effective when it comes to improving fitness, reducing weight and improving blood sugar control, although its long-term effects on the heart remain to be proven. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity) throughout the week, but even an hour is better than nothing.” - Dr Michael Papadakis

Be Fat Savvy

“Fat is essential for life, but it’s important to understand the different types. Saturated fats can raise your LDL cholesterol levels, which is known as your ‘bad’ cholesterol. Having higher levels of LDL is linked with an increased risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, HDL cholesterol, found in healthy, unsaturated fats, is protective for your heart. HDL picks up excess cholesterol from our blood and transports it to the liver where it can be excreted. A lot of people don’t know that eating lots of bad fats (LDL) can also lower your HDL levels, so make sure to eat plenty of whole foods (veg, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes) to build up levels of HDL.” – Dr Gaurav Sabharwal 

Learn To De-Stress

“Stress can take its toll on the heart. Stress itself will not cause heart disease but it turns people to coping practices such as smoking, excessive drinking, comfort eating and being physically inactive, which in turn predispose to risk factors for heart disease.” - Dr Michael Papadakis

Forget Coconut Oil

“Because of coconut oil’s high saturated fat content – it contains around 92%, nearly 50% more than butter – its heart-healthy image is unfounded. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, avoid cooking with coconut oil and certainly don’t use it as a dietary supplement. Better alternatives include olive and canola oils and spreads as well as avocado and nut butters.” – Dr Michael Papadakis

Give Eggs The Green Light

“Eggs have a bad reputation because the yolk is high in cholesterol – a medium-sized egg contains 186mg of cholesterol, which is 62% of the recommended daily intake. However, cholesterol plays an important role in the body and there are types that are beneficial to heart health. Most studies suggest eating eggs on a daily basis increases your good cholesterol and for most people has very little influence on levels of bad cholesterol. Eating three to four eggs a week should be fine for most people but those with diabetes or high cholesterol should be more cautious.” – Dr Michael Papadakis

Try The Mediterranean Diet

“The best example of a heart healthy diet is one that follows a Mediterranean approach. Clinical trials consistently show people assigned to a Mediterranean diet have fewer heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease than those who follow a conventional low-fat diet. The foods that form the bulk of this diet include generous amounts of olive oil, nuts, seafood, fruits, poultry, beans and vegetables, particularly leafy greens. Just be wary of the ‘food is medicine’ mantra as nutritional choices alone will not treat serious problems. However, making the right changes will certainly reduce your future risk.” – Dr Gaurav Sabharwal

Have A Heart MOT

“In the UK, you can request a heart health check between the ages of 40 and 74 from your GP. This can include an ECG test, a blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol check, plus a risk assessment where the doctor will work through your risk factors, and if appropriate medication or lifestyle changes like stopping smoking or weight loss could help. You can also pay for tests privately, like a chest x-ray or an ECG test.” – Maureen Talbot, Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation 

Include Fibre

“We are now much more aware of the importance of gut health as a significant factor in our overall health. If our gut is unhappy, we tend to have high levels of inflammation and chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease. Be sure to eat plenty of soluble fibre (barley, oats, beans, nuts and fruits), which can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.” – Dr Gaurav Sabharwal

Dr Michael Papadakis is the Consultant Cardiologist at Lanserhof at The Arts Club and the chair of Sports Cardiology and Exercise of the European Association of Preventative Cardiology (EAPC). For booking enquiries email medical@lhtac.com. Click here for more information on One5 Health and to book an appointment with Dr Sabharwal.

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