As we mark World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation’s biggest day to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and how to maintain a healthy heart, it’s a good time to know the little changes you can make in your daily life to keep your heart young.
Here we round up five ways to look after your heart not just on September 29 but throughout the year.
1. Drink tea and coffee
In a 2015 study published in the journal Circulation, researchers from the Harvard University Chan School of Public Health found that those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day were less likely to die from heart disease, as well as a range of other diseases, when compared to those who drank no coffee, or less than two cups a day.
For those who prefer tea, an American study published earlier this year found that tea drinkers could be 35% less likely to suffer a heart attack or another major cardiovascular event, with just one to three cups a day of either black or green tea shown to be beneficial.
2. Eat whole grains
According to a study published earlier this year by Harvard University, a 16-gram serving of whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, brown rice and quinoa could reduce the risk of heart disease death by nine percent, and upping the amount to three daily servings (or 48g a day) resulted in a 25 percent decline in risk of heart disease death.
3. Get some sleep
A US study published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that those who are early to bed, early to rise, show more heart-healthy behavior than night owls.
The team of US researchers found that getting an adequate amount of sleep — 7 to 8 hours — and at the right time, by going to bed earlier rather than later, reduced the unhealthy lifestyle behaviours associated with poor heart health such as smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
4. Eat good fats
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, could reduce the risk of a fatal heart attack by 10 percent, while a study by Ohio State University found oils high in a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid could also have a beneficial effect on heart health.
Participants who had a higher level of linoleic acid in their blood also tended to have less heart-threatening fat between their vital organs, with the team recommending grapeseed oil as an excellent source of linoleic acid.
5. Get active
Many studies have shown the benefits of exercise for preventing CVD, with a team of researchers from Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University even calling exercise a “magic bullet” when it comes to tacking the global problem of cardiovascular disease. After evaluating research on the health benefits of exercise the authors found that even just brisk walking for 20 minutes a day could not only burn around 700 calories a week, but also reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 30 to 40 percent.