How to take care of your heart

Caroline Cassidy

Informing people about the risk of heart disease can prevent them from running the risk of dying prematurely, especially if they can be persuaded to take the steps necessary for a healthier lifestyle. There are recent statistics that suggest seven out of ten adults currently don't do enough physical activity. This is increasing their risk of heart disease. Being active keeps your heart healthy and makes you look good into the bargain.

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Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – there's plenty of evidence to show that they will lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Fresh, frozen, dried or tinned, make sure you consume plenty of these foods for a healthy heart.

Eat at least two portions of fish a week. One of these portions should be an oily fish, such as mackerel, trout or salmon. This change in your diet could improve your chances of survival after a heart attack.

Reducing salt will help you maintain a lower blood pressure, which may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.

It is also important to encourage people to stop smoking and drink less. Some risk factors are strongly associated with CVD but are potentially reversible or can be modified such as high blood pressure, weight problems, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Your heart is a muscle, which is why exercise is so important. It doesn't matter if you haven't been active for a while. Your heart can become stronger so that it's able to pump more efficiently. Being more active will also improve the ability of your body's tissues to extract oxygen from your blood, helping you maintain healthy levels of blood fats. The three types of exercise needed to become fitter and healthier are aerobic, resistance training and flexibility.

Any kind of activity that increases your breathing rate and gets you breathing more deeply is beneficial. Walking, running, swimming, dancing or rowing will all have the desired effect.

If you are overweight, you're 80 per cent more at risk of heart disease. The best way to control your weight is to eat a healthy diet and take regular exercise.

If you need a more sedate form of exercise you could try yoga or pilates. These are safe and gentle and are particularly good for people with heart problems, as they help with stress and anxiety. If you have heart disease check with your doctor first and tell your instructor.