NICHS | 7 ways to keep your heart healthy
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7 ways to keep your heart healthy

30 Sep

With around 225,000 people living with heart and circulatory diseases in Northern Ireland, it's so important we all look out for our heart health.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the number 1 cause of death in the world. It has many causes: from smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, to air pollution and rare and neglected conditions.

Check our 7 ways to keep your heart healthy:

1. Keep Active

Keeping active not only has great benefits for your physical health but also your mental wellbeing, so break up the time spent sitting as much as possible. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week such as brisk walking, riding a bike or an exercise class. On 2 days of the week incorporate strengthening activities into your routine such as Pilates or get creative and turn tins of food or milk cartons into weights. Remember every minute counts!

2. Eat Well

Are you stuck in a rut of eating the same foods day in day out? NICHS recommend using the Eatwell Guide to help plan meals to ensure your body gains all the nutrients it requires from each of the main food groups. Always, try to read food labels to help choose options that are low in sugar, salt and fat and remember to watch your portion sizes. Portion sizes are linked to the size of your hand so children’s portions will be smaller than adults, and women’s portions smaller than men’s.

3. What about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for everyone, and we get it from two main sources, sunlight, and food. During the darker evenings in Winter time especially, we may find ourselves inside more, and we may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight. Our bodies can make most of the vitamin D that we need from sunlight on our skin during the ‘summer’ months (April to the end of September). Our body also uses the vitamin D from foods like oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, trout, kippers and sardines), eggs and meat, along with foods that have been fortified with vitamin D such as breakfast cereals and most spreads. It may be worth considering a daily supplement – the recommended amount is 10 micrograms a day.

4. Reduce Alcohol 

It’s normal to want to relax after a challenging day. However, using alcohol to relieve stress or anxiety isn’t the answer. Alcohol is a depressant, and although may boost your mood in the short term it doesn’t last and can lead to both physical and mental health problems in the future. Try to keep alcohol intake within recommendations to help reduce your risk. Both men and women should aim not to exceed 14 units of alcohol per week and have 2-3 days that are alcohol free. For more tips on reducing your alcohol intake, please click here.

5. Keep Connected

It's so important that we maintain connections with those around us, not only for our mental health, but also for our physical wellbeing. Connect with family, friends and colleagues. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

6. Relax 

Sometimes life can be hectic particularly if you are trying to balance both your work and personal life – especially now that so many people in Northern Ireland continue to work from home. Schedule time in your day to relax and do something that you enjoy. Listen to music, take a walk, try some mindfulness techniques, read a book, talk to a friend, exercise or whatever helps you to release the stress from your mind and body.

7. Sleep Well

Sleep is important because it affects our physical and mental wellbeing, however when things crop up in our lives sleep tends to be the first thing that we forget to prioritise. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, one of the first things to consider is your bedroom. To get a restful night’s sleep, you need the right setting. Try and limit technology as much as possible, especially in the 2-3 hours before bedtime. Finally, try our deep sleep mediation available free on our website to help clear your mind and to drift off to sleep - click here to find out more.

For more information on keeping well, click here to read our pages about risk factors.

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