The Health and Wellbeing column with the BHF’s senior cardiac nurse Julie Ward: Top tips to keep your heart healthy

Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.
Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.
Julie Ward, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, gives her top tips for maintaining heart health this National Heart Month

This National Heart Month we’re rallying the nation to do more to look after their hearts.

There are currently 7.6 million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases, and latest figures from the British Heart Foundation show that over 60% of Brits surveyed are more concerned about their physical health because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The good news is that over half (54%) of those surveyed are determined to do more physical exercise.

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Here are some simple everyday tips you can use to help look after your heart health:

A blood pressure monitor can be used to check for hypertension.A blood pressure monitor can be used to check for hypertension.
A blood pressure monitor can be used to check for hypertension.

Know your numbers

You may not have heard of hypertension, but you most certainly have heard of it by its more common alias – high blood pressure.

An estimated 28% of adults in the UK have high blood pressure – that’s around 15 million people. But around half of them aren’t receiving effective treatment.

If left untreated, hypertension can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, there are few symptoms and it often goes undiagnosed. That’s why some refer to it as a silent killer.

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You can normally get your blood pressure checked at your GP surgery or some workplaces. In the current pandemic it may be more suitable to buy a blood pressure monitor and take your blood pressure at home.

Keep a diary of your readings and discuss them further with your GP or practice nurse.

The BHF has useful information on the website around buying a reliable blood pressure monitor and a video on how to monitor your readings accurately at home.

Eat healthy

Many of us are finding ourselves with more time on our hands since we’ve been in lockdown, so what better time to start adding some healthy and colourful recipes to your repertoire.

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A healthy and well balanced diet can help to reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases and stop you gaining weight, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

The Mediterranean diet is a good place to start.

It is typically rich in fruit and vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, fish, including oily fish such as sardines, and wholegrain cereals, so aim to include more of these foods in your diet.

Keep moving

Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing heart and circulatory disease by up to 35%. You don’t have to run a marathon or swim the Channel to see the benefits. Just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day, such a walk during your lunch break, can help make a difference.

Physical activity can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, control your weight, reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improve your mental health.

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If you don’t know where to start, the BHF has virtual challenges like the MyCycle and Step Challenge to help get you moving.

For further information visit or to find out your heart age via this link.