Ten Tips for a Healthy Heart

Worried about high cholesterol? Trying to get fit? Here's help to look after your heart.

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Worried about high cholesterol? Heart trouble runs in the family? The British Heart Foundation has 10 tips to help you look after your heart.

Did you know that your heart pumps your blood around your body so fast it travels 12,000 miles every day? It does this without you even realising, so it's easy to forget it's a powerful muscle that needs to be looked after. The British Heart Foundation has put together this helpful list of small changes you can make to improve your heart health every day.

Top Ten Healthy Heart Tips

  • Stop smoking.

  • Maintain a healthy weight and shape, with a body mass index (BMI) of 18-25.

  • Get active. You should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of activity a week, in 10 minute bursts or more. Make simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the lift, or getting off the tube a couple of stops early and walking the rest of the way.

  • Reduce the amount of fat you eat by cutting down on dairy fats in particular, which should help reduce your cholesterol. That means skipping things like biscuits and cakes, but also watching out for frying in or adding lashings of butter or demolishing a cheeseboard. Read food labels, looking out for the traffic light labelling system as a guide.

  • Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Meals like minestrone are packed with vegetables, or sneak extra veg into your favourite recipes, like this healthy shepherd's pie.

  • Watch your salt. You should eat no more than 6g (1 teaspoon) salt a day, but it can be easy to go over the limit with processed food. Making your own meals from scratch as much as possible means you're in control of how much salt you add.

  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Men should have no more than 21 units a week, women should have no more than 14. It can easy to go over without realising. A large glass of wine (250ml), for example, is more than 3 units. If you're trying to drink less at home, drink from small wine glasses (125ml) and drink to the bottom before refilling so you can keep tabs on what you're drinking.

  • Eat more oily fish. This includes salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines among others. You should aim to eat it 3 times a week.

  • Deal with stress. Sometimes easier said than done, do try to make time to relax and switch off. Combining this with a long walk will help you get more exercise too. Your heart will thank you twice over.

  • Have a health check. The NHS offers free check-ups for over 40s, but it's worth making an appointment anyway, especially if you have a history of heart disease or stroke in the family.