As we welcome in February, we say goodbye to bleak mornings, the new year's resolutions that didn't quite hit the mark and bitterly cold evenings without the promise of forthcoming festivities. February brings with it the assurance of lighter evenings, as well as, arguably, the most romantic day of the year. Talking of hearts - it's also the British Heart Foundation's 'Heart' month and we definitely want to do our bit. Want to know 10 simple and effective ways you can love your heart and boost the longevity of your ticker? Read on, there's something for everyone.

It's the British Heart Foundation's Heart Month!
It's the British Heart Foundation's Heart Month!


1. Get Active

One of the easiest ways to improve your heart health is by exercising. The good news is, this doesn't need to be routine breaking and you don't need to join an expensive gym. It could be as easy as going on a jog with friends, cycling to work or even following a workout dvd from your front room. The important thing is to 'just do it' and to stick to it. The NHS recommends that by doing 30 minutes of exercise over 5 days (out of the 7) a week you can reduce your risk of getting heart disease as well as boosting your mood. Win win.

30 minutes of exercise, like jogging, 5 days a week is a great way to reduce the chance of heart disease

2. Have your 5 a day

We all know how important it is to eat vegetables to remain healthy. By having 5 portions of fruit and veg each day, you're providing your body with the nutrients it needs. Fruit and vegetables containing minerals, vitamins and fibre have preventative characteristics. In fact, recent research1 carried out by the British Heart Foundation found that nitrates present in green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, can help widen blood vessels and thin the blood, in turn, reducing the risk of a heart attack and stroke. If you'd like some creative ways to get more fruit and veg into your diet, take a look at this blog on 20 ways you to get your 5 a day!

3. Make Weight Matter

Maintaining a healthy weight goes hand in hand with the two other points above. It's important to educate yourself on what a healthy weight looks like for you and make sure that you adjust your routine, including your diet and exercise pattern in order to work towards that. Being a healthy weight reduces the risk of conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

4. Be A Healthy Foodie

Diet and heart health go hand in hand. Did you know that if you cut down on salt, you reduce the chance of increasing your blood pressure? Equally, by cutting down on the amount of saturated fat you consume, you lower the risk of your cholesterol levels increasing in your blood, which is a contributing factor to heart disease. Fish such as sardines, fresh tuna and salmon are a great source of omega-3 fats, which have proven cardiovascular benefits. Nutritionists suggest that if you eat two portions of fish every week you will be protecting your heart!

Top tip: read the food label
When you're doing the rounds during your weekly shop, check the labels to help you make informed healthier choices about the products you buy.

Eating fish such as salmon twice a week is a great source of omega-3

5. Get more sleep

Did you know that sleep is also a contributing factor2 to maintaining a healthy heart? Surprised? We were, too! According to the national sleep foundation people who don't sleep enough are more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease and having at least 7/8 hours of good quality sleep is imperative if you'd like to reduce the risk of conditions such as these developing. Although this is still developing research, it is thought that lack of sleep disrupts underlying health conditions and biological processes including blood pressure and inflammation. Fluff up at that pillow and bump up your bed-time.

Having a good nights sleep can reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease

6. Stand up!

Sitting down for extended periods of time is considered by some to be the new 'smoking' of the 21st century. Whether we're at work, driving too work or relaxing at home watching Netflix, the majority of us spend our time sitting down. This could be detrimental to our heart and our health!3 A recent study carried out by cardiologists found that people who sat for an extended period of time were more likely to "show signs of injury to their heart muscles". To combat this, you could try going on a gentle walk at lunch or consider switching to a standing desk.

7. Go smoke free

Smoking is one of the main contributing factors to weakening your heart health. In fact, according to the NHS:
"Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker."
If you're a smoker, going smoke free is one of the best things you can do for your heart health and your bank balance.

8. Cut down on alcohol

As much as we all like a good night out or a cheeky glass of wine in the evening, we all know that these come with repercussions that don't just include a hangover. If you drink more than the recommended daily amount it can have an impact on everything from your waistline to your health. Try to keep within the recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the chance of serious problems with your health, including risks to your heart health occurring.

9. Take a good quality supplement

Research suggests that taking a good quality supplement containing omega 3 could also have a positive impact on your heart and your health. Taking omega 3 has plenty of proven benefits to your heart. It helps to lower your blood pressure, and cholesterol, thereby supporting your heart health. By taking a supplement every day you may help to decrease the chance of heart disease.


10. Go to the Doctor

Aside from all of the advice, tips and tricks we've given above, it is also crucial to go to the doctor for a general check up and to discuss any issues you might be having. This check up should at least include having your blood pressure checked as well as your cholesterol tested.


This Valentine's Day love your heart as much as your significant other.
(Oh, and if you are in a relationship, don't forget to buy those flowers and a good card. Otherwise there might be heartache! Which none of the above can help with.)

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References:
1. Ashmore, T. et al., (2014). 'Suppression of erythropoiesis by dietary nitrate'. Faseb J [published online], 29(3): 1102-1112
2. Grandner, M. et al., (2016). 'Sleep: Important Considerations for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease'. Curr Opin Cardinol, 31(5): 551-565
3. Rohm, D. et al., (2016). 'Sedentary behavior and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality: A science advisory from the American Heart Association'. Circulation, 134(13): 262-279

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