Christmas and New Year can be a happy time for many. There’s family, friends, holidays, parties, food and drink.
While it is a time to socialise and relax, here are a few simple steps you can take to try to balance having a good time with being good to your heart.
Research continues into how stress contributes to heart disease. Whether it is stress directly or whether stress levels increase risky behaviour (such as smoking, drinking or overeating) taking some time out can be good for you. It might be unwinding with family and friends, yoga, meditation, reading, exercise - whatever works for you.
2) Eat well
This time of year it is easy to end up eating and drinking a lot. While this is the time of year to enjoy yourself, you can be kind to your heart by balancing this out with plenty of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies), whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, legumes, raw nuts and seeds as well as garlic and onions. Your heart will thank you.
Your heart is a muscle and needs exercise to help keep it fit to pump blood around your body. Exercise is not just important for your heart – it makes your lungs stronger, strengthens and stretches your muscles and helps build tougher bones. Whether it’s a walk on the beach, a trip to the park, a bike ride, a swim or just walking the dog, summer and the holidays are a great time to get active.
4) Limit your fat and salt intake
Diets high in saturated fat can lead to increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. A high salt diet puts you at increased risk of high blood pressure. Limiting (you don’t have to eliminate!) your fat and salt intake is a simple way to help your heart.
5) Visit a doctor
Do you know your blood pressure? What about your cholesterol levels? Elevated blood pressure places added stress on the heart and blood vessels. Elevated levels of cholesterol contribute to cardiovascular disease. If it has been a while since you had a health check the New Year is a great time to do it. The sooner you know of any lifestyle changes to be made the sooner you can make them.
6) Kick the habit… Give up smoking
Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders including cardiovascular disease. Smoking will increase your risk of heart attack by 2 to 3 times. While some people may find it hard to give up the benefits are enormous. A new year and the fresh start that come with it are a great opportunity to break some old habits… and to start forming some good new ones!
7) Donate to heart research
There are many lifestyle factors you can change to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. However some are beyond your control: Age, sex and a family history of cardiovascular disease are three of these factors. By donating to heart research you are supporting the scientists and researchers who are looking to make heart disease a thing of the past.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The Heart Research Institute.