World Heart Day - reduce your risk of heart disease

Heart disease and stroke is the world's leading cause of death, accounting for more than 17 million deaths each year - almost 29 per cent of all deaths globally.

World Heart Day, on 29 September, aims to raise awareness of the risks, causes and effects of heart disease and stroke around the globe.

World Heart Day

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The figures may look frightening, but according to the World Heart Federation at least 80 per cent of premature deaths caused by heart disease or stroke could be avoided with a few simple lifestyle changes.

As part of World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation will be attending a high level United Nations meeting to discuss the prevention and control of cardiovascular disease (CVD) but, as always, there is plenty you can do to help protect yourself and your family.

One of the most important things is keeping your weight in check. People who are significantly overweight are 80 per cent more likely to get heart disease.

To maintain a healthy weight, eat a diet that is low in saturated fats, salts and refined carbohydrates and high in fruit and vegetables. Eating whole grains, nuts, and at least two servings of fish a week could also help reduce your risk of developing CVD.

Regular exercise can also help keep your heart healthy, so make sure you get the whole family outdoors, even if it's just to wrap up and go for a walk.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that children aged five to 17 years old should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, with most of that being aerobic.

Adults aged 18 to 64 years old should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, with 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, throughout the week.

Smoking too is a major cause of heart problems, causing an estimate one fifth of CVD worldwide. That risk is halved just one year after quitting - worth remembering when the cravings start.

Moderate consumption of alcohol (between one and two units of alcohol a day) is also advised as it will help reduce the risk of heart disease in men over the age of 40 and women after the menopause.

Of course, not all heart attacks and strokes are preventable but no doubt your family's health is paramount so why take the risk?

If you are concerned about your own heart, visit your GP who can test your cholesterol levels, measure your body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure to establish your risk level and advise on how to start improving your heart health.

For more information on World Heart Day, visit