Friday, September 29 marks World Heart Day 2017, which aims to encourage people around the world to be heart healthy and cut their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes heart attack and stroke.
CVD is the world's number one killer, causing 17.5 million deaths each year, with the figure expected to rise to 23 million by 2030.
The good news is that many cases of CVD can be prevented with some daily lifestyle changes. Here we round up some of the ways that everyone can manage their heart health on World Heart Day and all year round.
Get to know your heart
Book a visit to your doctor or healthcare professional to get to know how healthy your heart is and any lifestyle changes that you need to make. It's good idea to find out your blood pressure, which is the number-one risk factor for CVD and known as the "silent killer" because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many are unaware that they have it. Also have your blood glucose levels checked as high blood glucose could indicate diabetes, which if left undiagnosed and untreated can also put you at a higher risk of CVD and stroke. Also check your cholesterol levels, weight, and body mass index (BMI) to help ensure your heart is healthy.
Eat heart-healthy food
Aim to include five portions of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet, with each portion equivalent to around a handful of fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit and vegetables. Avoid processed and prepackaged foods which are often high in fat, sugar, and salt, and try to make your own healthy meals for lunch at school or work. Cut down on sugary fruit juices and drink water instead, and keep your alcohol intake within recommended guidelines.
Kick the habit
Stopping smoking is the single best thing anyone can do to improve their heart health. Within two years of quitting the risk of CVD is significantly reduced, and within 15 years returns to that of a non-smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of heart disease in those around you, so by quitting you'll also help improve the health of friends and family. If you're struggling to kick the habit don't suffer in silence, seek out the support of those around you and help from a medical professional.
Physical inactivity is another contributor to CVD, as it can lead to unhealthy weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five times a week can help cut this risk, with brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling all great choices. Making everyday changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking instead of driving are also easy ways to get more active.