Nothing beats a healthy heart!
Health conditions affecting the heart and blood circulation, including heart disease and stroke, are one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK. These conditions – known collectively as cardiovascular disease - can largely be prevented by leading a healthier lifestyle, and even small changes for the better can help to keep your heart healthy.
The Love Your Heart Bucks campaign is here to let you know about the simple steps that you can take to keep your heart healthy, and where you can find local support to make further lifestyle changes.
Simple things you can do to help your heart stay healthy
Even small changes to your daily routine can help your heart and circulation. These could include:
- being a little more active
- making small changes to what you eat
- drinking a little less alcohol
- stopping smoking
- taking some time to de-stress
Over time, all the small changes you make add together and make a big difference to your heart health - walking for just 30 minutes five times a week can reduce you blood pressure by ten points.
"Pump it up" - know your blood pressure
High blood pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease. When blood pressure is high over a long period of time, it puts a strain on the heart, blood vessels and other organs.
Checking your blood pressure is easy. In Buckinghamshire, there are many places where you can check your blood pressure for free.
- At Aylesbury Library and High Wycombe Library using one of our FREE Health Stations
- At local pharmacies
- At your GP practice
- In designated community settings: The Hive Community Centre, Wycombe
- In designated faith settings: WISE Mosque, Wycombe, Hope Community Seventh Day Adventist Church, Wycombe
Pump it up
As part of our ‘Pump it up: Make a start to a healthy heart’ campaign, we’re making it easier for people to check their heart health.
The Health Stations can be used for free and offer people living, visiting, and working in Aylesbury and High Wycombe the chance to check their heart health - providing results for Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, heart rate, body composition, perceived stress, and alcohol.
And that’s not all! Portable blood pressure monitors are now available for library members to borrow for free from Aylesbury Library, High Wycombe Library, Chesham Library, Micklefield Community Library and Castlefield Community Library. These devices offer people the opportunity to measure their blood pressure in the comfort of their home.
Find out how to become a member of your local library for free, either online or by visiting your local Buckinghamshire Council library. If you have borrowed a ‘Pump It Up’ blood pressure monitor from your local library, please share your valuable feedback and experience with us.
Know your numbers
Checking your blood pressure regularly is important for knowing how healthy your heart is, and you can see what’s happening over time. When you have your blood pressure checked, the result comes as two numbers, a top number and a bottom. To know what the results of your blood pressure check mean for you, you need to understand the numbers.
If you’re getting consistently high results, you should take some action to get your blood pressure lower, and you may want to raise the issue with your GP.
Ways to keep your heart healthy
Eating well is important for both mind and body, and helps your heart stay healthy.
Eating well means enjoying your food and having plenty of variety in your diet so you get all the nutrients you need and maintain a healthy weight.
The Eatwell guide shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each food group.
It’s never too late to start eating healthily. A healthy diet doesn’t have to be dull or costly, and it doesn’t mean you have to give up the less healthy things you enjoy – it just means eating them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.
Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels and can cause heart attacks or strokes.
Most smokers who stop smoking will experience a quick recovery, even long-time smokers can see rapid health improvements when they quit.
Within a year, heart attack risk drops dramatically. Within five years, most smokers cut their risk of stroke to nearly that of a non-smoker.
Even a few cigarettes now and then damage the heart, so the only way to keep your heart safe from the effects of smoking is to stop altogether.
In Buckinghamshire we offer personal support to see you through quitting via our Live Well Stay Well programme which has already helped over 1,600 Bucks residents to stop smoking.
It’s well-known that exercise is good for your health. When it comes to your heart, it can reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases by up to 35%.
There are so many ways of keeping active, from taking up a sport right through to informal activities such as going out for a walk or gardening – it’s entirely up to you.
If you want the support of others, then joining in group exercise classes or other group physical activities could be for you. Not only is the exercise good for your heart, there’s a social side too that can help boost your mental wellbeing.
Get Active is a service specifically for Buckinghamshire that aims to help you to be more active by letting you search for activities near you.
Learning to relax
Life can be busy, and we often don’t take the time we need to unwind and de-stress. Being constantly under stress can raise your blood pressure, so it’s important for your heart health that you find ways to relax.
Just making sure you have some ‘me’ time to do something you enjoy is an important way to relax, but many people find that meditation and mindfulness techniques are a powerful way to reduce stress. This could be something that you do alone, or you may wish to enrol for guided meditation.
Understanding your genetic risk
Higher risk groups
People of South Asian or African Caribbean heritage have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. And regardless of your ethnicity, if there’s a history of heart attacks or strokes in your family you may be more at risk genetically.
If you are in one of these higher risk groups, it’s especially important that you monitor your blood pressure. Your GP may also want to keep an eye on your cholesterol level.
When you have diabetes, you're more at risk of heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. That’s why it’s even more important to take good care of your heart through things such as eating well, keeping active and quitting if you’re a smoker. You may also want to discuss other preventative options with your GP.
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