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Healthy Heart, Healthy Life

08th, Sep 2022

A healthy heart is central to overall good health. Embracing a healthy lifestyle at any age can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke. With this being said, you are never too old or too young to begin taking care of your heart. This #NationalHeartMonth Dr Roger Brown, Private GP at Kingsbridge Private Hospital North West kindly answered our Healthy Heart questions below. Check them out!

How can we keep our hearts healthy? 

Several foundation principles - 

  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy low fat diet
  • Avoiding bad habits like smoking

It is important to know if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, as these should be treated to prevent heart problems. It is also important to know if you have a family history of heart disease, whether it is coronary artery disease or inherited conditions like Cardiomyopathy, so please ask the question of your family members and speak to your doctor if you do have a family history which might be concerning.

It’s been said that wine and chocolate are heart healthy? Is this true?

Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a sub-type called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. This type of anti-oxidant may be helpful for other conditions too. Milk chocolate is not high in Flavonoids. (The darker the chocolate the better it is for you… although the darker the chocolate the more bitter the taste.) The recommended amount is 2-3 ounces or 30-60g per day, as any more than that would introduce too many calories.

Red wine also provides us with helpful anti-oxidants which have long been thought to reduce the risks of a heart attack and to improve heart health. It is a small reduction in risk however, and there is no evidence that I could find of any improvement in stroke or other circulation problems.

What should we be on the lookout for as far as heart health goes?

Heart problems have some widely known symptoms which are useful to know about.

Central or left sided chest aching or tightness, or breathlessness, usually on exertion, is associated with angina (underlying coronary artery disease) and if this is more than a little niggle could well indicate a heart attack.

Palpitations, which are a sensation of feeling your heart beating in your chest, may be regular (all the time and in a fast regular pattern), irregular and intermittent, and may be associated with activity or come on at rest You may also experience the feeling of a “skipped” or missed beat. This symptom of palpitations, a racing heart or missed beats, may or may not be a sign of underlying heart problems. It may simply be an indication that you are under a lot of stress! Best to get a doctor to check this out.

Breathlessness (as mentioned above), if associated with exertion may indicate an unhealthy heart.

If there is a family history, it is important to really be on the lookout for other heart symptoms that you may experience yourself.

How can stress affect our heart health?

Stress causes us to produce Adrenaline to prepare for Fight, Fright or Flight. It is an inherent thing which we have little control over. The best way is to try to keep the Adrenaline levels down by avoiding the stress if possible. Adrenaline causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and both of these things put extra pressure on the heart. This is not an issue on an occasional basis (as long as you do not have underlying heart problems), but if it is chronic daily ongoing stress this eventually will adversely affect your heart.

How much weekly cardio exercise should we be doing to help manage good heart health?

It has long been know that a 20 minute brisk walk 3-4 times per week is enough to improve your heart health. Clearly if you want to do more that is good. The above figure was arrived at by health promotion experts as this is an easily achievable goal which reaps rewards in a relatively short time and was based on sound research methods.

If there is a concern, what should be the first point of contact?

If you have a sudden sensation of an aching pain in your central chest or even to the left side, which is associated with a sensation of pressure (like an Elephant sitting on your chest!) or acute sudden onset of breathlessness if under stress or during some exertion, this could indicate that you are having a heart attack, and you should immediately call for an ambulance (telephone 999), or get someone else to do so for you if you are not alone.

If it is a more low grade, slowly developing” niggle”/ache in your chest, especially if associated with stress or exertion, the first port of call is your family doctor.  You should then be offered an examination, including blood pressure, an ECG and perhaps a blood test too.

Overall, what are your 5 top tips for a healthy heart?

  • Regular exercise (20 minutes brisk walking 3-4 times per week  - or more!)
  • Keep your weight down to the recommendation for your height (BMI 19-25)
  • Healthy diet - low fat and high antioxidants( found in fruit and vegetables - these are actually superfoods!)
  • Do not smoke or drink excess alcohol (excess alcohol can cause a form of Cardiomyopathy!)
  • When over 50 have a regular Blood Pressure check - most people do not know when their Blood pressure is raised - you simply don’t feel anything.

If you have a concern and would like to book a GP appointment, please contact Kingsbridge North West directly on  028 7776 3502 or click here for further information. 

If you would like to find out more about our Cardiology services, please click here.

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