New research by wellbeing brand Healthspan has revealed that hitting The Big 5-0 – or Not-Quite-So-Big 4-0 – triggers worries about health, especially heart health
The study found that 42% of adults begin to think more about diet and wellbeing once they reach the milestone age of 40 and 50, while 31% wish they’d taken their health more seriously when they were younger.
“It’s never too late to start looking after your body and mind – and especially your heart,” says Dr Ameet Bakhai, Consultant Cardiologist at Spire Bushey Hospital.
Five Heart Healthy Choices
1. Improve Your Diet
“A worldwide study concluded that almost a third of heart attacks are linked to poor diet,” warns Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director. “Frequent consumption of fried foods and salty snacks was identified as harmful while a high intake of fresh fruit and veg was found to be protective.
“Cook from scratch as much as you can, eat more plant-based foods and, to help maintain a healthy weight, serve smaller portions,” continues Dr Brewer, who recommends adopting the Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet, which has been shown to reduce many of the risk factors for heart disease.
Leading nutritionist Rob Holden agrees that a healthy, balanced diet is the secret to a healthy heart. “When it comes to the health of your heart, think about including foods such as brightly-coloured, anti-inflammatory-packed vegetables, fibre-rich wholegrains to reduce cholesterol and healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds,” advises Rob.
And, as oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines contain omega 3 essential oils which help to protect the heart, include at least two portions of these seafood treats in your weekly menu.
2. Make Your Numbers Count
What was your latest blood pressure reading? Do you have high cholesterol levels? Is your blood sugar level tipping you towards diabetes? “It’s vital to know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” says consultant cardiologist Dr Ameet Bakhai.”You can get these checked at your local pharmacy.
“Aim to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers down – and your step count up,” continues Dr Bakhai, who recommends setting an achievable target of 4,000 steps a day to ensure you’re getting enough exercise.
3. Become a Mad Cat Woman!
According to research, owning a pet when you’re over 50 reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 31%. “Surprisingly, this isn’t simply due to taking more exercise when you have a dog,” explains Dr Brewer. “The benefits were largely attributed to owning a cat!”
The researchers concluded that the heart-protecting effects of pet ownership are the result of the stress-relief provided by the companionship, friendship and unwavering love shown by pets (especially cats!).
4. Be A Super Supplementer
Take a good look at your diet. Is it packed full of all the heart-boosting nutrients you need? Bridge any gaps by taking a high-quality dietary supplement or multi-vitamin.
“For example,” suggests Dr Brewer, “if you don’t like fish, omega-3 supplements are a good alternative. The results of 11 clinical trials involving 15,300 people with a history of cardiovascular disease showed that taking omega-3 supplements reduced the risk of heart attack by 25%.”
If you’re taking statins to reduce high cholesterol, it may be worth taking a coenzyme Q!0 supplement, such as Healthspan Ubiquinol Max (£35.95), which also contains fish oils and magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure. “Ubiquinol may help reduce the unwanted side effects of statins without affecting cholesterol-lowering benefits,” says Dr Brewer.
5. Don’t Give Up
“One of the most needless misconceptions in the world is ‘It’s too late for me – I’ve already had a heart attack’,” sighs Dr Ameet Bakhai.
“This is rarely the case. The difference between recovering well from a heart attack and recovering poorly is between seven to ten years of additional lifespan. The difference often lies in adopting a positive approach, adhering to medications, wanting to share, wanting to query – and wanting to know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers so you can keep those down and your step count up.
“It’s never too late to make heart healthy choices.”