Best 10 healthy heart tips

1. Give up smoking

If you’re a smoker, quit. It’s the single best thing you can do for your heart health.

Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.

You’re more likely to stop smoking for good if you use NHS stop smoking services. Visit the Smokefree website or ask your GP for help with quitting.

2. Get active

Getting – and staying – active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It can also be a great mood booster and stress buster.

Do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. One way to achieve this target is by doing 30 minutes of activity on five days a week. Fit it in where you can, such as by cycling to work.

3. Manage your weight

Being overweight can increase your risk of heart disease. Stick to a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and sugar, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, combined with regular physical activity.

Find out if you are a healthy weight with the BMI calculator. If you’re overweight, try our 12-week weight loss plan.

4. Eat more fibre

Eat plenty of fibre to help lower your risk of heart disease – aim for at least 30g a day. Eat fibre from a variety of sources, such as wholemeal bread, bran, oats and wholegrain cereals, potatoes with their skins on, and plenty of fruit and veg.

5.Cut down on saturated fat

Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. This increases your risk of heart disease. Choose leaner cuts of meat and lower-fat dairy products like 1% fat milk over full-fat (or whole) milk.

Read the facts about fat.

6. Get your 5 A DAY

Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. They’re a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. There are lots of tasty ways to get your 5 A DAY, like adding chopped fruit to cereal or including vegetables in your pasta sauces and curries. Get more 5 A DAY fruit and veg tips.

7. Cut down on salt

To maintain healthy blood pressure, avoid using salt at the table and try adding less to your cooking. Once you get used to the taste of food without added salt, you can cut it out completely.

Watch out for high salt levels in ready-made foods. Most of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy. Check the food labels – a food is high in salt if it has more than 1.5g salt (or 0.6g sodium) per 100g. Adults should eat less than 6g of salt a day in total – that’s about one teaspoon.

8.Eat fish

Eat fish at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish. Fish such as mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna and salmon are a source of omega-3 fats, which can help protect against heart disease.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t have more than two portions of oily fish a week.

9.Drink less alcohol

Don’t forget alcohol contains calories. Regularly drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline. Try to keep to the recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the risk of serious problems with your health, including risks to your heart health.

10.Read the food label

When shopping, it’s a good idea to look at the label on food and drink packaging to see how many calories and how much fat, salt and sugar the product contains. Understanding what is in food and how it fits in with the rest of your diet will help you make healthier choices.

Fish and shellfish

A healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish.

 

 A healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish.

That’s because fish and shellfish are good sources of many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish – such as salmon and fresh tuna – is also particularly high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to keep your heart healthy.

Most of us should have more fish in our diet, including more oily fish. However, there are maximum recommended amounts for oily fish, crab and some types of white fish. There is additional advice for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children and babies.

Fish that is steamed, baked or grilled is a healthier choice than fried fish. Frying can increase the fat content of fish and shellfish, especially if they’re cooked in batter.

To ensure there are enough fish to eat now and in the future, we should try to eat a wide variety of fish and to buy fish from sustainable sources.

Effects of smoking

 No matter how you smoke it, tobacco is dangerous to your health. There are no safe substances in any tobacco products, from acetone and tar to nicotine and carbon monoxide. The substances you inhale don’t just affect your lungs. They can affect your entire body. Smoking can lead to a variety of ongoing complications in the body, as well as long-term effects on your body systems. While smoking can increase your risk of a variety of problems over several years, some of the bodily effects are immediate. Learn more about the symptoms and overall effects of smoking on the body below.

Tobacco smoke is incredibly harmful to your health. There’s no safe way to smoke. Replacing your cigarette with a cigar, pipe, or hookah won’t help you avoid the health risks. Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients, many of which can also be found in cigars and hookahs. When these ingredients burn, they generate more than 7,000 chemicals, according to the American Lung Association. Many of those chemicals are poisonous and at least 69 of them are linked to cancer. In the United States, the mortality rate for smokers is three times that of people who never smoked. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that smoking is the most common “preventable cause of death” in the United States. While the effects of smoking may not be immediate, the complications and damage can last for years. The good news is that quitting smoking can reverse many effects.

Central nervous system

One of the ingredients in tobacco is a mood-altering drug called nicotine. Nicotine reaches your brain in mere seconds and makes you feel more energized for a while. But as that effect wears off, you feel tired and crave more. Nicotine is extremely habit-forming, which is why people find smoking so difficult to quit. Physical withdrawal from nicotine can impair your cognitive functioning and make you feel anxious, irritated, and depressed. Withdrawal can also cause headaches and sleep problems.

Respiratory system

When you inhale smoke, you’re taking in substances that can damage your lungs. Over time, this damage leads to a variety of problems. Along with increased infections, people who smoke are at higher risk for chronic nonreversible lung conditions such as:

    emphysema, the destruction of the air sacs in your lungs
    chronic bronchitis, permanent inflammation that affects the lining of the breathing tubes of the lungs
    chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung diseases
    lung cancer

Withdrawal from tobacco products can cause temporary congestion and respiratory discomfort as your lungs and airways begin to heal. Increased mucus production right after quitting smoking is a positive sign that your respiratory system is recovering. Children whose parents smoke are more prone to coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks than children whose parents don’t. They also tend to have higher rates of pneumonia and bronchitis
.
Cardiovascular system

Smoking damages your entire cardiovascular system. Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts the flow of blood. Over time, the ongoing narrowing, along with damage to the blood vessels, can cause peripheral artery disease. Smoking also raises blood pressure, weakens blood vessel walls, and increases blood clots. Together, this raises your risk of stroke. You’re also at an increased risk of worsening heart disease if you’ve already had heart bypass surgery, a heart attack, or a stent placed in a blood vessel. Smoking not only impacts your cardiovascular health, but also the health of those around you who don’t smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke carries the same risk to a nonsmoker as someone who does smoke. Risks include stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.

Integumentary system (skin, hair, and nails)

The more obvious signs of smoking involve skin changes. Substances in tobacco smoke ac

tually change the structure of your skin. A recent study has shown that smoking dramatically increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer). Your fingernails and toenails aren’t immune from the effects of smoking. Smoking increases the likelihood of fungal nail infections. Hair is also affected by nicotine. An older study found it increases hair loss, balding, and graying.

Digestive system

Smoking increases the risk of mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus cancer. Smokers also have higher rates of pancreatic cancer. Even people who “smoke but don’t inhale” face an increased risk of mouth cancer. Smoking also has an effect on insulin, making it more likely that you’ll develop insulin resistance. That puts you at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and its complications, which tend to develop at a faster rate than in people who don’t smoke.

Sexuality and reproductive system

 
Nicotine affects blood flow to the genital areas of both men and women. For men, this can decrease sexual performance. For women, this can result in sexual dissatisfaction by decreasing lubrication and the ability to reach orgasm. Smoking may also lower sex hormone levels in both men and women. This can possibly lead to decreased sexual desire.

Takeaway

Quitting smoking is difficult, but your doctor can help you make a plan. Ask them for advice. There are a variety of nonprescription and prescription medications that can help you quit. You can also turn to our smoking cessation resource center, which has advice, stories from others, and more. There are both short and long-term benefits to quitting smoking. Since smoking affects every body system, finding a way to quit is the most important step you can take to living a longer and happier life.