5 tips for preventing heart disease

Written by: Dr David Brull
Published:
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Heart disease is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK, and around 42,000 people will die as a result of cardiovascular disease before the age of 75 in the UK according to the British Heart Foundation. With healthier living, you can cut down on the chance of developing heart disease. Expert cardiologist, Dr David Brull talks us through how we can improve the health of our heart.

 

How can I prevent heart disease?

 

  1. Stop smoking

    The evidence is overwhelming that cigarette smoking and second-hand exposure to smoke increases the risk of heart disease more than any other modifiable factor.

    There are many ways to help you stop smoking such as using nicotine replacement gum or patches and by attending a stopping smoking clinic available at your GP surgery or in your local hospital.

    Stopping smoking reduces the risk of having a heart attack by over 30%.
     
  2. Eat healthily and watch your weight

    Obesity, caused by eating more calories than your body needs, is described as having a BMI or body mass index of greater than 30.

    Obesity contributes to a near epidemic of diabetes, a leading cause of heart disease together with increasing levels of high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

    Portion size and the amount of sugar in the average British diet have dramatically increased over the past few decades. Foods with high sugar and salt content and those high in hydrogenated fats lead to a higher rate of heart disease.

    As part of a healthy diet choose foods low in saturated fat and sodium , eat plenty of fruit and vegetables ( eat your five a day), fibre-rich whole grains, oily fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna, sardines and salmon (at least twice per week) nuts, legumes and seeds and try eating some meals without meat. Select lower fat dairy products and eat plenty of poultry (preferably skinless).

    If you drink alcohol, try not to exceed the recommended limit of 14 alcohol units a week. If you do drink this much, aim to spread drinking over three days or more. A unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of normal-strength lager or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) is about 1.5 units.
     
  3. Exercise is key

    Lack of exercise contributes to the obesity epidemic in the UK. Try 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking or cycling on most days as an easy change that can help you get a healthy heart.

    Why not also count your steps? This is easy to do using mobile phone apps or a sports watch. Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day to describe yourself as active.

    Exercise does more than burn calories; it also activates genes that are beneficial to health in other ways. Plus, exercise is one of the best treatments for depression and anxiety.
     
  4. Measure your blood pressure

    High blood pressure (called hypertension), is known as “the silent killer” as it goes without symptoms. As we get older our blood pressure tends to get higher. The higher your blood pressure the greater your risk of developing heart disease.

    Once your readings are consistently above 160/100 you will need treatment however this may need to be considered at much lower levels, often from above 140/90.

    Why not buy a home blood pressure machine to monitor the situation? These are relatively cheap to purchase and easy to use. Measuring blood pressures at home more accurately reflects your risk than just having your blood pressure taken at a doctor’s office as many people develop a “white coat response” because of anxiety with elevated readings when seeing their doctor
     
  5. Measure your cholesterol level and check for diabetes

    An abnormal cholesterol level, measured by a blood test, is a major contributor to heart disease.

    Your cholesterol levels include total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). The lower your total and LDL cholesterol levels are and the higher your HDL, the better your outlook.

    A healthy person should aim for a total cholesterol below 5, LDL below 3 and HDL above 1 (with even lower target levels in people who have already developed heart disease (total cholesterol below 4 and LDL below 2).

    Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes which is more common when people are inactive and overweight. Diabetes is a very important risk factor for developing heart disease.

    Many more people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes. This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased.

    Staying active, healthy eating and controlling your weight through diet and exercise is the best way to reduce the risk of developing diabetes and high cholesterol.

By Dr David Brull
Cardiology

Dr David Brull is a London heart specialist and leading Consultant Cardiologist with wide experience in treating all aspects of adult heart disease. His specialist interest is in the treatment of coronary artery disease through percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty and stenting).

Dr Brull was appointed Consultant Cardiologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer to the Whittington Hospital and Heart Hospital, University College Hospitals in October 2003 and became Cardiology Clinical Lead at The Whittington in 2011. Following his appointment in 2003, Dr Brull played an integral part in setting up the Primary PCI (heart attack) Service based at Heart Hospital UCLH, providing immediate access and round the clock treatment for heart attack patients throughout North and Central London. In April 2015 The Heart Hospital services moved to The Bart’s Heart Centre, forming the UK’s largest Cardiothoracic centre.

Dr Brull routinely sees patients with all common cardiac conditions including: angina (chest pain), hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, referrals for investigation of palpitations and collapse, cardiovascular risk assessment, perioperative cardiac assessment and treatment of elevated cholesterol levels. In addition to his work in the field of coronary artery disease, Dr Brull runs a specialist perioperative risk assessment clinic for patients prior to elective general surgery, working with a large multi-disciplinary team in order to reduce perioperative risk.

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