Are you looking after your heart?

01.07.2014

Did you know that your heart has its own blood supply? Around the outside of your heart are a network of tiny coronary arteries about the size of a human hair. This is where your heart receives the nutrients it needs to pump blood around your body. If these become ‘clogged’ then you run the risk of developing angina or having a heart attack.

Certain risk factors increase your chances of these arteries becoming blocked. Knowing the risk factors can lessen your chances of developing heart disease, some risk factors can’t be changed but a lot of them can be!

There is evidence that making changes to your life can slow down or even halt the progression of heart disease.

Something we can’t change is our age, 87% of people who die of heart disease are 60+, but we can make changes at an earlier age to prevent this happening.

Lower cholesterol levels
As we get older our cholesterol level can increase, this increase can contribute to the arteries becoming blocked. Cholesterol levels can be kept healthy by eating a healthy diet and being physically active. For more information, click on to the Weight Management page.

Become physically fit!
You should aim to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. I’m not suggesting that you have to chain yourself to a treadmill every day, you could walk to the shops rather than drive, play with the kids, do the gardening or wash the car instead of paying someone to do it, a healthy heart plus a shiny car, perfect! Regular physical activity can help to lower your blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease. Your heart is a muscle and like every other muscle in the body if you don’t use it, it will not perform at its best

Stop smoking!
Smoking is a huge risk factor for developing heart disease, the tiny coronary arteries we mentioned before really don’t like you to smoke. They react by becoming narrow and clotting, perfect combination for a heart attack. Help is out there for you to give up, click on to the Health and Wellbeing page for the details of Smoking cessation organisations who will help you to quit.

Have your blood pressure checked regularly
High blood pressure in the arteries forces the heart to work harder to push blood around the body. This constant hard work causes the left ventricle which is the hearts major pump to become thicker and larger, a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy. These can lead to heart failure where the heart is no longer able to affectively pump blood around the body.

Watch your weight!
The higher percentage of body fat we have increases our chances of developing many health problems, Diabetes type 2 and heart disease being two of them. You may have had your Body Mass Index (BMI) measured at the gym or by your GP.

Abdominal obesity or belly fat increases your risk of developing heart disease. This is because of Visceral fat, fat that surrounds our internal organs. If you are a man and your tummy measures 40 or a woman with a measurement of 36 your risk increases.

Calm down, calm down!
Everybody experiences stress at some point. We all lead busy, fast paced lives and are faced with everyday family, work or financial problems. Our body responds to stressful situations by releasing hormones in to our blood stream to prepare us for the situation. If we are not able to switch off from stressful situations we might be in trouble…

These hormones running around our blood can be damaging to our arteries as they stick to the walls and contribute to them becoming narrow restricting the blood flow to the heart. This can lead to in angina or clotting and blocking the arteries completely.

Physical activity can help prevent this happening. When you exercise your body releases another hormone in to the blood stream which acts like a Pac Man, it gobbles up all the harmful hormones keeping the arteries clear.

Relaxation also helps by allowing us to switch off the stress reactions and calming the system. For more information, view the post about stress.

But I’ve already got heart disease, what can I do?
Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of having a second heart attack by 25%. It can also improve your angina threshold. This is the length of time it takes for you to experience angina symptoms when you are being active. You should aim to be active every day by doing gardening, walking, house work etc but there are specific exercise sessions for cardiac patients to join.

At Stevenage Lifestyles, we have three Cardiac Rehabilitation Circuit Classes Monday and Wednesday 2.00 – 3.00pm and Friday 11.30 – 12.30pm. We also have daily gym sessions where you will be given a personalised programme by your trainer. You can pay as you go or take out a monthly membership which is a reduced rate.

These sessions are very sociable and great fun! We have trips to the seaside and lunches, healthy ones of course!

For more information contact Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre on 01438 242605.

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