Healthy eating and regular exercise are key to a healthier lifestyle and a happier heart. But you don’t need a change of lifestyle to make a difference. By making small changes, like eating less salt or taking a break from drinking a few days a week, you can make a big difference to your health, and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Count every step
Being active is one of the best ways to help prevent heart disease, but you don’t have to climb a mountain to get there.
Doing housework, walking the dog, mowing the lawn or even climbing the stairs all count towards your recommended two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week.
You could even break it up into shorter 10-minute stints to make it more manageable.
Go label shopping
Just by reading the labels at the supermarket, you could switch to meals and drinks that have less of the salt and saturated fats that are bad for your heart – with no loss of flavour. Look for the traffic light labels on packs: the more green lights, the better.
Get your Omega 3 fats
Try to eat an oily fish such as mackerel, tuna or salmon twice a week – they’re a rich source of Omega 3 fats, which help to protect against heart disease. Drizzling your meals with extra virgin olive oil can also help to increase your good cholesterol and reduce the bad type.
Take your stress for a walk
If you’re feeling under pressure, don’t sit on it – take it outside. A quick walk in the open air will not only help you de-stress and clear your head, but also make it easier to face your task again with fresh eyes. As an added bonus, it counts towards your exercise for the day.
Juice your way to five a day
Eating more fruit and vegetables is great for your all-round health, including your heart. And it’s more fun if you mix it up – try making a juice or smoothie in a blender, or sprinkle berries or dried fruit on your breakfast cereal.
Enjoy your food
You don’t have to eat like a bird to have a diet that’s good for your heart. Small changes like making up more of your plate from fruit and veg, switching to semi-skimmed milk and choosing leaner meat mean you can eat healthier, but still enjoy your food.
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for your heart. It’s known to clog your arteries and increase your blood pressure. When you stop smoking, the health benefits start straight away and your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year. Ask your GP for help to stop smoking.
Check your daily bread
Everyday foods, like bread, can contain a lot of salt. Checking the salt content of your usual bread and switching to low salt alternatives could be enough to reduce your blood pressure. Try to avoid adding salt to your food, especially at the table.
Have alcohol-free days
Latest research shows that drinking steadily every day can increase your health risks including heart disease. Giving your body a rest from alcohol a few days a week will help to reduce your tolerance for alcohol and the risk of harm to your heart and body.
Know your numbers
Get to know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels – knowing them will help you understand your risks and if you need to change your lifestyle. Take the opportunity to have them checked at work, or by your doctor or local hospital.
*The Marks and Spencer voucher offer is for new customers only. The vouchers will be sent to you within 28 days of receiving your first subscription payment if paying annually. Or, if paying monthly, within 28 days of receiving your second month’s subscription. Only one voucher will be issued per household.
The above offers cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, apart from our 5% discount for paying annually. Offers may be withdrawn at any time.
Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday. AXA PPP healthcare may record and/or monitor calls for quality assurance, training and as a record of the conversation.
The Independent is introducing customers to AXA PPP healthcare to provide affordable health cover to our readers.
The Independent is an Introducer Appointed Representative of AXA PPP healthcare Limited.