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What does good heart health look like?

Tuesday November 20, 2018
What does good heart health look like?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects 7.1 million people in the UK to date impacting men and women both equallyi. The annual cost to the NHS to provide treatment to those suffering with CVD is around £9 billion. There are numerous tests used by hospitals to assess the condition on your heart or diagnose a condition, these may involve x-rays, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, blood pressure readings, physical assessment, pulse reading and blood tests.  

What does good heart health look like?

Common markers of heart health checked in the GP surgery are cholesterol and blood pressure. Cholesterol is measured via a blood sample and the results will indicate total cholesterol (TC), low density lipoprotein (LDL), High density Lipoprotein (HDL), and total fats (triglycerides). The government recommends that healthy adults should have a total cholesterol level below 5 mmol/L.  

Triglycerides represent your body's ability to clear fat from blood after a meal. Ideally it should be less than 1.7 mmol/Lii on a fasting sample or less than 2.3 mmol/L on a non-fasting sample. 

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures:

- systolic pressure – the pressure when your heart pushes blood out 

- diastolic pressure – the pressure when your heart rests between beats 

      * ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg  

      * high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher 

      * low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower


Lifestyle Tips for good Cardiovascular Health

Eat well : A healthy diet can help lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease and prevent weight gain, reduce your risk of diabetes and hypertension. Aim to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to ensure a high fibre intake which has inversely been associated with heart diseaseiii iv. Limit processed foods as well as those rich in sodium and sugar. 

Get Active: Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease. It can also help you control your weight and reduce blood pressure. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. 

Maintain a healthy weight: Research shows that reaching and keeping to a healthy weight cuts your risk of heart and circulatory diseases because it helps prevent and manage conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes that put you at greater risk of coronary heart disease. 

Quit Smoking: Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with non-smokers. If you smoke, stopping is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart. 

Reduce Stress: Although stress is not a directly a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases, but it's possible that it may contribute to overall risk level. Change your lifestyle in a positive way can help you feel better able to cope with the demands put onto you. A balanced diet, meditation and regular physical activity can help you cope with stress. 

Reduce Alcohol: Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can have a harmful effect on your heart and general health. Alcohol is also high in calories so it can lead to weight gain. Current recommendations are not to drink more than 14 units per week and have some alcohol-free days within the week. 

Author: Aimée Benbow, BSc (Hons) ANutr. is Technical Director at Viridian Nutrition. 



i British Heart Foundation, (2015), Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2015, British Heart Foundation centre on population approaches for non-communicable disease prevention, Oxford University, UK


ii NICE (2008) Accessed: 28 September 2018.Lipid modification: Cardiovascular risk assessment and the modification of blood lipids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Clinical guidance 67 (CG67)[Online]


iii Wolk, A., Manson, J.E., Stampfer, M.J., Colditz, G.A., Hu, F.B., Speizer, F.E., Hennekens, C.H. and Willett, W.C., 1999. Long-term intake of dietary fiber and decreased risk of coronary heart disease among women. Jama, 281(21), pp.1998-2004


iv BHF (2018) British Heart Foundation: Healthy Eating. [Online}  Accessed: 28 September 2018.


The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Nutrition News and ViewsCardiovascular health, Cardio


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