Heart health – what’s your risk factor?

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that the NHS has just launched an app that can predict when you’re likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The online tool, which compares your heart age with your biological age, has been described by developers as a “wake-up call” to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Critics have already called the accuracy of the calculator into question but while it is rather a blunt tool, it seems to me a genuine attempt to prompt people to examine the state of their health.

You can take the test here for yourself: https://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/heartage.aspx

What are the risk factors for heart disease and heart attack?

There are a number of risk factors that increase your chance of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

These include:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Depression, social isolation
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of heart disease

What can I do to reduce my risk of heart disease?

In the UK around one in five men and one in eight women die from heart disease every year but there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or, for those who already have it, to manage their condition.

  • Give up smoking
  • Eat healthily
  • Increase your physical activity
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Control high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Manage diabetes
  • Tackle depression and social isolation.

The importance of exercise and healthy eating

Regular exercise strengthens your heart and reduces your risk of heart disease. It also helps to manage some of the other risk factors associated with heart disease such as being overweight. Physical activity can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as improve insulin resistance and manage diabetes.

You should aim for at least 30 minutes or moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking on most, and preferably all, days of the week. If you can’t spare 30 minutes all in one block, divide it into three bouts of 10-minute activity.

It’s also important to eat a healthy diet. Try to limit your intake of foods with high sugar, fat and salt content. Choose instead plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes with lean protein such as chicken or fish. Also include wholegrain cereals, breads, pasta and rice.

Fit Forever

If you’re unsure about the best way to improve your fitness, Fit Forever is the perfect starting point.

Fit Forever is a low-to-moderate intensity exercise programme that is open to everyone over the age of 50. It draws on my training and experience as a an exercise leader for the Australian Heart Foundation’s Heart Foundation and is specifically for people who have health risk factors or stable chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and bone or joint problems. It is also suitable for people who haven’t exercised for a long time.

Classes take place at the studio and incorporate gentle aerobic activity, weight-bearing or resistance exercise and stretching, all of which help to build strength and improve balance. Fit Forever is fun and it also provides social interaction with a group of like-minded people.

You can find out more information about Fit Forever classes here http://www.kinesisfitness.co.uk/fit-forever/


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