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Understanding Heart Health: Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy



Your heart operates beat-by-beat, second-by-second, 24 hours a day. It has a never-ending workload, beating around 2.5 billion times over the average lifespan and driving millions of gallons of blood to every corner of your anatomy.  Its unrelenting flow pumps oxygen, hormones, fuel, and other essential cells around the body to sustain health and happiness.  And that’s not all. It also removes unwanted waste products and carbon dioxide. Just incredible, isn’t it? When the heart fails, these critically important functions cease – some almost immediately.

It’s a marvel the heart performs so well, for so many of us, for so many years. We owe our very existence to it. That’s not to say it’s invincible, of course This impressive organ is also subject to the trappings of modern life: unhealthy dietary choices, a lack of exercise, smoking, and drinking to excess – all of which conspire to hijack its performance.

But packing in the porridge, foregoing fries, and taking up running aren’t the only ways to supercharge your heart health. Some lesser-known habits and areas of daily life – your emotional wellbeing, sleep hygiene, hormones, and oral health – can also impact this vital organ and are well worth considering in the quest to nourish your heart.

And so, this brochure aims to dive deeply into the multi-layered nature of cardiovascular health. With a more holistic and in-depth understanding, we hope you can add more than just the traditional dietary and lifestyle changes to your arsenal to nip those all-too-hair-raising trends about heart health in the bud.


A pressing issue

Knowing the heart plays such a central role in keeping us alive, we need to treat it like the valuable commodity it is. But it’s not always that straightforward. Indeed, rates of heart and circulatory disease (an umbrella term that describes all diseases of the heart and circulation) remain worryingly high in the UK.

According to the British Heart Foundation, more than 7.4 million people are currently living with heart or circulatory diseases in the UK: 3.5 million women and 3.9 million meni. And with a growing and ageing population, cases of cardiac events could see these figures surge further still. Just let this sink in for a minute.

Did you know?
In the UK, there are more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year due to heart attacksii. That’s 1 every 5 minutes.


The cost

Heart and circulatory diseases claim lives. Cardiac events cause more than a quarter (28 per cent) of all deaths in the UK, which amounts to a staggering 170,000 each year – around the population size of Cambridgeiii. To put that into context for you: that’s 460 deaths each day or one every three minutes. Even more concerning are the findings of a British Heart Foundation report earlier this year. They revealed the number of under-75s dying from heart disease has soared for the first time in fifty years, proving it’s no longer a condition that just blights the elderlyiv.

Human cost aside, the financial burden of poor heart health is exceedingly high, too.  The total annual healthcare cost of heart and circulatory disease in the UK is a sizeable £9 billion. The dent to the UK economy is equally alarming, racking up a bill of £19 billion every yearv.


Prevention is better than cure

Make no mistake: heart health is an issue we simply cannot ignore. Though the statistics are both shocking and sobering – a wake-up call to how devastating poor cardiovascular health can be – the good news is that lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Living in a healthy, well-balanced and nourishing way, particularly from a young age, equips your heart with all the goodness it needs to thrive and beat long into your golden years. There’s a saying: prevention is better than cure – and that’s certainly the case with heart health.

Did you know?
Every eight minutes, someone in the UK dies from coronary heart diseasevi.


Lifestyle changes to help your heart

People often believe dental health merely amounts to staying on top of your teeth-cleaning habits. But there’s so much more to it than that. Good health starts in the mouth. And, in recent years, it’s become increasingly apparent that oral health also affects your heart. Researchers now propose the plaque on your teeth may be connected to plaque in your arteriesvii.


The mouth as the gatekeeper

Oral health and heart health are interconnected by the spread of bacteria and germs from your mouth to other corners of the body through the bloodstream. When these bacteria reach the heart, they can lead to inflammation and may result in clogged arteries or infections of the inner lining of the heart.

Oral hygiene: dos and don’ts

  • Brush your teeth for at least two minutes, twice daily

  • Brush your tongue; this will help get rid of bacteria

  • Floss daily to help remove trapped food

  • Change your toothbrush every three months

  • Stand your toothbrush upright and let it air-dry between each use

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste


Optimise your nutrition

Beyond keeping your pearly whites clean, they also need to chow down on good food. In any case, try to limit your intake of simple carbohydrates (refined sugar, white bread, fries, baked goods, fizzy drinks, and chocolate) since these foods feed tooth decay. To mitigate any dental damage, add plenty of teeth-friendly nutrients to your diet. Fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A, D and K2, support the immune system in your teeth (yes, your teeth have an immune system) and provide the first line of defence against disease-causing factors.



References:

  1. Bhf.org.uk., Heart statistics. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

  2. Bhf.org.uk., Heart statistics. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

  3. Bhf.org.uk., Heart statistics. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

  4. Bhf.org.uk., Heart statistics. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

  5. Bhf.org.uk., Heart statistics. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

  6. Bhf.org.uk., Heart statistics. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics

  7. Harvard Health. Gum disease and heart disease: The common thread - Harvard Health. Available online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread



 

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Our Author - Keri Filtness

Keri

Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.

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