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Don’t go breaking your heart this Valentine’s Day

User AvatarPosted by Amanda Crawford at 10/02/2015 12:11:30

A few hearts might get broken this Valentine’s Day (Saturday 14 February). But there are ways to keep yours strong.

Dr Navin Kumta, who chairs NHS Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans and pays for most of the area’s healthcare, said: “It is essential we all look after our hearts. Unfortunately, many take their heart for granted - until it is too late.”

In the Ashford area, 3,864 people are registered as having coronary heart disease (CHD) – 3.15 per cent of the population.

Most at risk are smokers, diabetics, those with high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol levels, those who are overweight and those who take little exercise.

The heart pumps an average of 23,000 litres of blood through the body every day, ensuring oxygen from the lungs keeps everything working. But as fat builds up on the walls of arteries blood flow is restricted, increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Dr Kumta said: “Little changes like altering your diet to cut down on salt, sugar and saturated fats (usually found in cakes, biscuits and hard cheese) can make a big difference.

“Doing a little exercise, keeping your weight down, reducing your alcohol intake and giving up smoking will also help.

“Overall, the UK has seen a reduction in coronary heart disease. But it is still Britain’s biggest killer, claiming the lives of one in four people. The tragedy is that in the vast majority of cases, this condition can be avoided. We know it can be difficult to make changes but they may bring life-long benefits.”

Kent County Council’s Interim Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, said: “We know that the levels of people smoking, drinking too much alcohol and living an inactive lifestyle are causing a huge issue for Kent’s health services and these are all areas where we can support people and we urge them to use the services available to make a change.”

Take heart with our three top tips

Stop smoking.
Smoke clogs up arteries and damages the heart. The tar also blocks the lungs, starving the body of essential oxygen. Plain cigarette packets have been introduced to try to stop youngsters from taking up the habit. Experts are still unsure about the benefits of e-cigarettes - they contain nicotine but do not have the other harmful chemicals found in normal cigarettes.

Watch what you eat and drink.
Eating or drinking excessively can be dangerous for the heart, especially if it is the wrong type of food or drink. In general, eat a variety of foods including fruit and vegetables. Drinking too much can damage the heart, liver and brain.

Exercise more.
Even small changes, like walking to the shops instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of a lift, can help. Gyms are friendly places these days but if you do not feel this is for you, try joining a walking or cycling group instead, or find a dance class.

For more information about heart disease, visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk or the British Heart Foundation at www.bhf.org.uk

For more information about the health services available in Kent, go to www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health