As Valentine's Day approaches we are inundated with images of hearts in all shapes, sizes and ingredients! But what about our actual hearts, what can we do to make them healthier?
Read our top ten tips with ideas you can implement every day to improve your heart health, helping you to enjoy many more valentines days to come.
1. Give up smoking
The biggest single thing you can do to help your heart health is to give us smoking. Smoking damages the blood vessels leading to your heart, brain and other parts of your body. This makes you four times more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke and three times more likely to die from cardiac death.
It can be tough to stop and may take several attempts, a lot of support and nicotine replacements. But it’s worth it! Your risk immediately reduces after stopping and after a year decreases significantly again. And best of all? It could gain you more time to spend with loved ones.
2. Cut down on alcohol
While moderate amounts of alcohol can offer some heart benefits, too much can have damaging effects.
There is a clear link between regularly drinking too much alcohol and having high blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure (hypertension) puts a strain on the heart muscle and can lead to cardiovascular disease, which increases your risk of a heart attack and stroke.
The recommended weekly consumption of alcohol is no more than 14 units per week for both men and women. If you consume more than this try to cut down.
3. Meet up with friends
According to social psychologist John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago, loneliness is linked to hardening of the arteries, which leads to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.
So a fun way of improving your heart health is to meet up with a friend. Go for a walk, chat over the internet or simply pick up the phone, anything that stops us feeling isolated is good for our hearts!
4. Get active
The heart, like any other muscle, needs physical activity to help keep it in good condition. Unfortunately, about 1 in 5 cases of coronary heart disease in developed countries is due to lack of exercise.
When adequate exercise is done your heart muscles are strengthened, which in turn improves the heart's ability to pump blood throughout your body. Resulting in increased oxygen levels in the blood.
Just by increasing your exercise by ten minutes every day can help your heart. The recommended weekly amount is 150 minutes of exercise that's strenuous enough to increase your heart rate.
5. Manage your weight
Being overweight can increase your chances of a heart attack. The good news is, by losing just 5% of your body fat you can make a massive difference.
Experts believe this is because your metabolic profile is improved. By sticking to a healthy balanced diet and undertaking regular exercise, losing 5% shouldn’t be too hard and just think of what you will gain!
6. Get your five a day
Part of a healthy balanced diet is ensuring that you get at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. The nutrients, vitamins and fibre they contain will help to keep your body in balance and help your heart healthy.
Interestingly, a portion size of fruit is equivalent to one handful, whilst a portion size of vegetables is two handfuls! Make sure to include a rainbow of fruit and vegetables and don’t forget the greens.
Recent research found that nitrates present in greens can help widen blood vessels and thin the blood. Just one way of eating more fruit and veg helps reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
7. Eat more fibre
Soluble fibre found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by decreasing low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol levels.
Increasing our fibre intake may lower the risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. It's recommended that we have 30g of fibre in our diet per day. Add some into your diet by eating a high fibre breakfast cereal, a handful of nuts or some pulses such as beans or chickpeas.
8. Choose healthy cooking methods
Avoid frying or cooking in fat wherever possible. Instead try steaming, boiling or poaching. Think about using lemon juice herbs and spices instead of cream or cheese sauces.
Scientists have discovered that people with heart disease who practised meditation - for just 15 minutes a day can cut their risk of heart attack and stroke by half, compared to those who don’t.
This is thought to be because meditation helps to lower blood pressure. This recent study showed that meditation can be linked to lower cardiovascular risk.
10. 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.
Our field-grown, flash-frozen superfood juices are an easy way to incorporate healthy nutrients into your diet. Treat yourself or a loved one on the month when hearts are most on our mind.