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Heart Month

It’s never too late to look after your heart by making the right lifestyle choices.

Man showing a heart during Heart Month

WHY HEART MONTH?


Heart and circulatory conditions affect people of all ages and from all backgrounds, with World Health Organisation declaring them as the leading cause of death globally. The British Heart Foundation estimates that in the UK someone dies from a heart or circulatory condition every three minutes. That's why this Heart Month, we are raising awareness around cardiovascular health and encouraging everyone to take positive steps towards a heart healthy life.


CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE (CVD)


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It's usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries and an increased risk of blood clots. CVD includes conditions like coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease, hypertension, stroke and vascular dementia. Symptoms of heart disease vary based on what condition you have and can include:

  • chest pain

  • breathlessness

  • very fast or slow heartbeat, or palpitations

  • pain, weakness or numb legs and/or arms

  • feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint

  • fatigue

  • swollen limbs


Find out more about a specific heart disease condition here.


7.6 million people are living with a heart or circulatory disease in the UK.

There are several risk factors for heart and circulatory disease, including: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, unhealthy diet, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, as well as lack of physical activity.



LIVING A HEART-HEALTHY LIFE


No matter your stage of life, it’s never too late to look after your heart by making the right lifestyle choices. There are four main strategies to live a heart-healthy life and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.


Stay active


Friends jogging in the park

Regular exercises will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level and help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. A strong heart can pump more blood around your body with less effort and as a result you will be at lower risk of having a heart attack. The NHS advises that adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities. Not sure where to start and which activity you should try? Have a look at the following websites for some tips and advice:


  • Join the Movement - guidance from Sport England on simple, fun and free ways to get active, both indoors and outdoors.


  • Couch to Fitness - a free and flexible at-home online exercise plan for beginners. The multiweek plan involves 3 video sessions a week, with rest days in between so you can take it at your own pace.


  • We Are Undefeatable - a movement supporting people with a range of long-term health conditions. The purpose is to support and encourage finding ways to be active that work with each person’s conditions, not against them.


  • Every Body Moves powered by Toyota - a campaign to connect disabled people with more opportunities to get active than ever before. You can find different sports sessions, local facilities, as well as online activities using their ‘Activities near me’ section. There are almost 6000 different opportunities across the UK!


Eat well


Salad with chicken and avocado as a healthy lunch


Unhealthy diet can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, which can all increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. The arteries can become damaged and fatty deposits can start to build up. If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can lead to a stroke.


Eating the right sort of foods in the right amount is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. By following a healthy diet, you can reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. Also, if you already have a heart or circulatory disease, eating better can help protect your heart from further problems. You should try to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables, include plenty of fibre-rich foods and a range of protein-sources, choose mainly unsaturated fats and oils, as well as minimise foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars. Have a look at Eat Better guide from British Heart Foundation for some simple tips and advice on how to eat healthy. You can also find some delicious heart-healthy recipes from Heart UK.


Limit alcohol


Married couple in the shop looking at the wine selection

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of having a heart attack and stroke. It can also lead to the development of vascular dementia and Type 2 diabetes. This is because over time, drinking too much alcohol raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure makes your arteries less stretchy and damages the walls. The consequence of this is that it’s easier for fatty material to build up, and the flow of blood and oxygen is limited.


It’s crucial that you keep within the recommended alcohol guidelines. Not drinking alcohol at all is always the healthiest choice, however it is not always easy to do. Cutting down on how much you drink, rather than giving up alcohol completely, is still an important step for protecting your heart and overall health. If you’re struggling to limit alcohol intake, have a look at DrinkAware Digital tools can help you assess, track and set goals to reduce your drinking. The assessment tools may also help you identify if the amount you drink could be putting your health at serious risk.


Stop smoking


Businesswoman smoking a cigarette during her break at work

The chemicals in cigarettes and other smoking products kill thousands of people in the UK every year. The toxins in cigarettes affect your whole body not only while you’re smoking, but also after the cigarette is finished. Quitting smoking will lower the levels of cholesterol and fats circulating in your blood, which will help to slow the build-up of new fatty deposits in your arteries. British Heart Foundation estimates that just after one year of quitting smoking your risk of heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker's.


Stopping smoking isn't easy, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of success. The NHS Stop Smoking Services provide free expert advice, support and encouragement to help you stop smoking for good. You'll normally be offered a one-to-one appointment with an adviser, but many areas also offer group and drop-in services as well. You could also try using the NHS Quit Smoking app which is a 28-day programme that offers practical support, encouragement, and tailored clinical advice. You can download the app in the AppStore or Google Play.



SUPPORTING HEART HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE


Happy team at working having a chat during break

CVD’s cost to the UK economy (including premature death, disability and informal costs) is estimated to be £25 billion each year.


There is a huge opportunity to make a difference in improving CVD outcomes, given that the majority of CVD cases are preventable. Workplaces can play a huge part in it through wellbeing initiatives, programmes, and policies that encourage healthy behaviors.

 

There are a number of simple and effective ways you can help your employees on a journey to improved heart health:


  • Raise awareness of CVD - provide employees with information and tools that can help them understand the risk factors associated with CVD and what steps they need to take to improve their heart health. Share relevant resources like booklets, articles, videos and podcasts via Intranet or book our 'Healthy heart' webinar/seminar that can help inspire your staff to make positive lifestyle changes.

  • Take a preventative approach to employee health  - many people don't get regular health checks or see a healthcare professional as often as they should and therefore are not aware of their current state of health. One simple thing you can offer is an annual Employee Health Check for all staff. This can allow workers to monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels and make any necessary changes to their lifestyle.

  • Promote healthy eating - host a cookery workshop, organise 'Nutrition and healthy eating' webinar, provide healthy choices for company meetings and events, offer free fruit, send out a monthly newsletter with healthy recipes, provide nutrient-rich food options in the canteen, or add healthy food alternatives to vending machines and snack bars.

  • Help your employees get more active - whether it’s through a cycle to work incentive scheme, a lunchtime walking or running club, a company's step challenge, 'Move more, sit less' webinar, discounted gym memberships, monthly onsite fitness classes, or the introduction of ‘walking meetings’, encourage employees to be more active.

  • Encourage employees to drink less alcohol - highlight the harms of alcohol and provide some tips on cutting down through our 'Alcohol awareness' webinar/seminar, organise a mocktail bar during company's events, or share some mocktail recipes via monthly newsletter. You should also have a proper alcohol policy in place with a strong focus on wellbeing to create an environment where people feel confident to ask for help.

  • Support staff to stop smoking - book 'Smoking cessation' webinar so employees can learn the best ways to give up smoking and let your employees know how to contact their local NHS Stop Smoking Service for further information, advice and support.


Taking proactive steps to address heart health in your employee wellbeing plan is essential for promoting a healthy and productive workforce. By understanding the importance of heart health, incorporating key components into your wellbeing initiatives, and implementing different strategies in the workplace, you can make a positive impact on the overall wellbeing of your employees. Get in touch with us to discuss how we can support you and your staff.


 

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