There’s a modern myth that it is middle-aged men who are overweight that are most at risk of heart disease. But increasingly, women are becoming more at risk, in fact, a spokeswomen for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) says that heart disease is the single biggest killer of women in the UK, and kills 3 times more women than breast cancer. Unlike breast cancer however, heart disease can be prevented, so we have listed the very best advice on how to cut your risk of developing heart disease:
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking is often associated with cancers, in particular lung cancer, but did you know that if you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop heart disease than if you were a non smoker? However, all is not lost if you do smoke, give up in your 40’s and research shows that you have a 40% reduction in the risk of having a heart attack and stroke within 5 years.
2. Take regular exercise
Studies have shown that people who lead a mostly sedentary life are at greater risk of not only heart disease, but cancer and diabetes. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes a week of exercise, which works out at only 20 minutes a day. You don’t have to be a gym bunny, start off by walking for 10 minutes then walk back. Increase the speed and length gradually or incorporate the exercise into your everyday routine, for instance, get off the bus a stop early, don’t take the lift at work, instead, walk up the stairs.
3. Check your blood pressure
High blood pressure is fairly common in the UK, with 1 in 3 adults suffering from it, but alarmingly, about a third don’t realise, so get yours checked. If you have high blood pressure you are three times more likely to develop heart disease and twice as likely to die from it. If you are over 40 it is especially important to get it checked so that you can have the correct medication and health advice.
4. Check your cholesterol
As with high blood pressure, high cholesterol is also an indicator that you could be at risk of developing heart disease, as cholesterol builds up in the arteries and blocks the blood flow. In the UK, 2 out of 3 people have high cholesterol but you can do something about it. Eat products that lower your cholesterol and contain plant sterols and stenols, such as Benecol and Flora Pro-Activ.
5. Cut out sugar & salt
A diet high in sugar and salts can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and this in turn could lead to heart disease, as women with diabetes are 8 times more likely to develop heart disease. However, changing your diet can have radical effects on type 2 diabetes, by cutting out sugar and salts and eating a healthy diet, you can lower your weight and minimise your risk of both diseases.
6. Eat a Mediterranean Diet
Studies show that people in the Mediterranean tend to live for 2 or 3 years longer. It is thought that this is because they eat a diet consisting of fruit and vegetables, oily fish and olive oil, all of which contain anti-oxidants that fight the effects of cancer and heart disease. It is recommended that people should eat two portion of fish a week, one should include an oily fish, such as salmon, sardine or mackerel as these types of fish contain the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids.