Hampden’s Heart Health Awareness Month: February 2022
Last updated: 11.45am, Wednesday 9th February 2022
Lowering the incidence of heart disease remains one of the most important health challenges, both in Scotland and increasingly in the developing world. While the incidence in the UK is thankfully decreasing it remains the leading cause of death in males and disproportionately affects those in lower socio-economic groups.
Each February, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) actively promotes National Heart Month by encouraging people to raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease to their employees, friends and family. While our recent focus may have be on the Covid pandemic, ensuring we remain active and healthy in 2022 is still important.
Hampden Sports Clinic offers a range of Health & Fitness screening packages which include assessments of blood pressure, heart and lung function. Since the current restrictions have been lifted we were able to reopen our full range of health and fitness services...
Why do these tests matter?
Around 30% of adults in Scotland have high blood pressure but most don’t know they have the condition as raised blood pressure usually has no symptoms. Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts on the walls of the arteries – the blood vessels which carry blood around your body. Raised blood pressure increases our risk not just of heart disease but of stroke and kidney disease so next time you are at your GP or practice nurse ask them to check your blood pressure – its quick and painless. Treatment of raised blood pressure saves lives.
We have all heard about cholesterol and even the good and bad cholesterol. In fact cholesterol is vital for life and the normal function of many of the systems of our body. Too much cholesterol however, results in the build-up of fatty deposits within the walls of our blood vessels leading to a restriction of blood flow, resulting in angina, a heart attack or stroke. Like blood pressure, the only way to know your cholesterol level is to have it tested.
To find out more about the heart tests that we offer from our health and fitness team (during normal times), please click HERE or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to provide you with further information.
Heart Health Tips for 2022
There are currently seven million people in the UK living with cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke. However, in many cases people can reduce their risk of these conditions by improving their diet, doing more physical activity and quitting smoking.
Recent statistics from the BHF show that less than a third (30%) of adults in Scotland eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, and 33% of men and nearly half (45%) of women do not do the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week.
To better understand these trends, the BHF carried out a survey that showed a lack of time and motivation are top of the list in terms of barriers that are preventing people being as healthy as they would like. The survey found that almost a quarter (23%) of people said their family or work commitments get in the way of them leading a healthier lifestyle, with 20% saying losing motivation is the biggest barrier currently preventing them from leading a healthier lifestyle.
Small, everyday changes
In response, the British Heart Foundation are encouraging people to ‘start small’ by taking at least 10 minutes every day to make a small change towards a healthier lifestyle during February’s Heart Month. This is in line with government recommendations that adults should aim to be active daily, ‘in bouts of 10 minutes or more’, adding up to at least 150 minutes per week.
Catherine Kelly, BHF Director of Prevention, Survival and Support, said: “The public have told us loud and clear that time and motivation are fundamental barriers to a healthy lifestyle. We have to listen to their concerns and during this Heart Month, we are offering people manageable and realistic guidance to help make small changes to their extremely busy routines.
“We know that changing the simplest everyday habits can make a big difference - from getting off the bus two stops early to eating more fruit and veg, and building bite-sized chunks of physical activity in to your everyday life.
Hearty Tips - Get involved…
Don’t sit for too long at one time. In recent years, research has suggested that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health no matter how much exercise you do. This is bad news for the many people who sit at sedentary jobs all day or work from home. When looking at the combined results of several observational studies that included nearly 800,000 people, researchers found that in those who sat the most, there was an associated 147 percent increase in cardiovascular events and a 90 percent increase in death caused by these events. Besides, sitting for long periods of time (especially when traveling) increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot).
TIP: It’s important to move throughout the day. Park farther away from the office, take a few shorter walks throughout the day and/or use a standing work station so you can move up and down. And remember to exercise on most days.
Get enough sleep. Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits. One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation. TIP: Make sleep a priority. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep most nights. If you have sleep apnea, you should be treated as this condition is linked to heart disease and arrhythmias.
Practice good dental hygiene, especially flossing your teeth daily.
Dental health is a good indication of overall health, including your heart, because those who have periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. Studies continue on this issue, but many have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes may in turn, increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. TIP: Floss and brush your teeth daily to ward off gum disease. It’s more than cavities you may have to deal with if you are fighting gum disease.
Eat healthy fats, NOT trans fats.
We need fats in our diet, including saturated and polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. One fat we don’t need is trans fat, which is known to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime. This is because trans fat clogs your arteries by raising your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering your good cholesterol levels (HDL). By cutting them from your diet, you improve the blood flow throughout your body. So, what are trans fats? They are industry-produced fats often used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines and fried fast foods to add flavor and texture. TIP: Read the labels on all foods. Trans fat appears on the ingredients list as partially hydrogenated oils. Look for 0 percent trans fat. Make it a point to avoid eating foods with trans fat.
Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke like the plague.
Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25 to 30 percent higher for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work. Exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to thousands of heart disease and lung cancer deaths each year. And nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol also have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke. This is because the chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the development of plaque buildup in the arteries.
TIP: Be firm with smokers that you do not want to be around environmental smoke — and keep children away from secondhand smoke.
Follow these five tips and the nutritional diet advice below and you’ll be doing your heart a favour. You’ll feel better and be able to stay active with a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Top 10 diet tips for a healthy heart
Eating to keep your heart healthy needn’t mean a complete lifestyle change. A few simple swaps can make all the difference…
Take it down a notch
Using low-fat milk instead of whole milk will reduce your saturated fat intake, which in turn can help to lower your cholesterol levels. It might seem like a small change but, because milk is an everyday food, it can add up and make a big difference to your overall diet. If you already use semi-skimmed milk but are reluctant to use skimmed, give 1% milk a go.
Bigger isn’t always better
Use measuring spoons to help with portion control and don’t always go for the biggest when it comes to choosing individually portioned foods. These little choices can really add up: we know that by choosing the smallest bagel at breakfast rather than the largest each day you could save enough calories over a year to mean you lose 5½lbs.
It can be easy to forget the snacks we have between meals and wonder why the weight is creeping on. Writing down what you eat over the day can help remind you of the extras you’ve had and can also help you keep track of positive things like whether you are getting your 5-a-day.
Lean isn’t always mean
Choosing lean meat and removing skin and visible fat is a great way to reduce the saturated fat content of your meals. If you’re using meats where the fat is difficult to remove, like mince, then choose the leanest version you can and then skim any excess that rises to the top during cooking.
An easy switch to start off with is looking at the oils and spreads you use in your cooking. A Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, veg, fish and pulses and using unsaturated oils like olive, rapeseed and sunflower rather than saturated fats like butter or lard might not be low in fat overall but the type of fats are better for your heart.
Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. If you find it difficult to eat fresh produce, remember that there are five ways you can get your 5-a-day: fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced. But don’t get carried away with the juicer – juices only count once a day, however much you have. The process of juicing also exposes the natural sugars in the fruit, which may be detrimental for your teeth – so if possible, enjoy your juice with a meal to minimise damage.
Full of beans
Try making a vegetarian meal during the week for a lighter choice. Beans are a great way to fill you up and a portion will count as one of your 5-a-day. Even if you are still making a meat dish, why not add some beans and lentils to it? It will mean you need less meat, which will lower the saturated fat content, but still have plenty of savoury flavour.
When you’ve spent time sourcing healthy, seasonal ingredients for your dishes, use healthy cooking methods to show them at their best. Grill or bake fish and meat and have vegetables baked, boiled or steamed to go alongside. If you are going for a pasta dish, make a tomato rather than cream-based sauce for a heart healthy option.
Halt the salt
On average in the UK, we eat more than the recommended maximum of 6g a day. Cutting down on salt is important to help to avoid high blood pressure. But that doesn’t mean your food has to be bland – you can still pack your meals with taste without adding salt. Try adding herbs and spices, pepper, chilli or citrus instead.
Be label savvy
Cooking from scratch will help you control the amount of saturated fat and salt as well as sugar in your meals, but it’s still important to check the nutritional information of the ingredients you use. The content of staples like bread and breakfast cereals, or meat products like bacon and sausages, can vary widely. By looking at the nutritional information you can make a more informed choice. Knowing exactly what’s in the product means you’ll know what’s on your plate – your heart and your waistline will thank you for it.