Management / Getting to the heart of the matter

Getting to the heart of the matter

At this time of year heart health deserves more attention than it generally gets

Each year, around this time of year, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) urges people to take extra care of their hearts. Winter after winter, the UK sees an increase in the number of people who die – and, according to latest 2016 figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 4,300 of these “excess deaths” are due to coronary heart disease. Interestingly, one of the key findings from the ONS’s latest dataset is that those under 64 were affected more than in previous years.

Experts in the health of people in their middle years are not surprised by these findings. Earlier this year, a report on UK attitudes to healthy aging uncovered the fact that people under 50 worry more about memory loss or joint stiffness in old age than they do about the health of their heart.

And, even though coronary heart disease now counts as the UK’s second-biggest killer behind cancer, in a report on healthy aging, Future-proof your health from the middle years, published by the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS), dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton says that potential health issues such as these “are being overlooked by too many in their middle years”. She warns: “Without action being taken now by the current middle-years generation, a health crisis is brewing for the future.”

The BHF says that cold weather makes your heart work much harder to keep your body warm. Low temperatures cause blood vessels and arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow and reducing oxygen to the heart. Your heartmust pump harder to circulate blood through these constricted vessels. As a result, blood pressure and heart rate increase, putting an already weakened heart at risk of failure. Blood clots are also more common in cold weather.

To keep hearts healthy in winter, people should keep active and warm, take precautions to avoid flu (including vaccination) and see a pharmacist quickly if they feel a cold coming on. Healthy eating can also help – according to the HSIS, five nutrients in particular can offer heart benefits:

• Vitamin D (found in fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, fortified cereals, cheese and egg yolks). A lack of vitamin D is associated with heart failure

• Vitamin E (found in almonds, sweet potatoes and spinach). Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can support a healthy heart, circulation, nerves, muscles and red blood cells

• Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 (found in fish, meat and poultry). These reduce the levels of chemicals in the blood linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease

• Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oils, chia seeds, and walnuts). These help lower cholesterol, protect against abnormal heart rhythms and the build-up of plaque in arteries

• Potassium (found in fruits such as apricots, bananas, kiwi, oranges and pineapples, and vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, and potatoes). This plays a pivotal role in regulating the electrical activity of the heart, and reducing the risk of strokes

This article was published in our Business Reporter Online: Taking care of business.
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