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8 warning signs of poor heart health

Looking to kick start your new healthy version of yourself? One of the best reasons to get healthy is to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. As always we recommend speaking to your GP for any advice about improving your health and lifestyle. Check out these vital stats to get those conversations started…


1. Family history of heart disease

Did you know that if your parents or siblings have developed cardiovascular disease before the age of 60, you are at increased risk of developing the disease?

Knowing your familial history is really important when it comes to heart health. Although it’s impossible to modify your genetics, you can limit you risk by knowing your other risk factors (read on) and doing your best to limit their impact.

2. You have high blood cholesterol

Your doctor can organise for a thorough check up of your cholesterol. Molecules called lipoproteins carry cholesterol through your blood. It is made up of :
  • ‘Good’ cholesterol (HDL: high density lipoprotein). HDL’s absorb bad cholesterol and having high levels can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • ‘Bad’ cholesterol (LDL: low density lipoprotein). LDL’s make up the majority of your body’s cholesterol and having high levels can lead to plaque build up in your arteries and result in heart disease or a heart attack.
  • Total cholesterol is a measure of the total cholesterol in your blood.

3. You are overweight or obese

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) is a good metric to consider in relation to your risk of heart disease. Your BMI in combination with your waist circumference give a good indication of your cardiovascular disease risk. As your BMI increases so does you risk of heart disease.

BMI is a simple calculation: BMI = Weight (kg)/Height (m)2
To find your BMI, check out the Heart Foundation's BMI calculator.

BMI calculation estimates:
Less than 18.4 : underweight
18.5 – 24.9: target weight
25-29.9: overweight
More than 30: obese

Waist circumference (women / men)
Target: less than 80cms / less than 94cms
Increased risk of health complications: 80-88 cms / 94-102cms
Substantially increased risk of health complications: more than 88cms / more than 102 cms

NB: The BMI values apply only to adults aged 18 years and over and are based on studies of Caucasian populations. This means they are not applicable to children and may not be appropriate for people of non-European backgrounds.

4. You have high blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood generated by your heart as it pumps blood into the aorta. This allows blood to be pumped around your body and back to the heart. High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. Sometimes there are no warning symptoms so it is important to get your blood pressure checked by your GP regularly. Your GP will take your blood pressure several times and give you the average represented by two values:

Systolic pressure: measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (muscle contracts). This is the top number in a blood pressure reading.

Diastolic pressure: measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats (muscle rests). This is the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.

5. You have high blood glucose

High blood sugar is the result of not enough insulin in your body. This can happen if you are diabetic, you have eaten too much or you do not get enough exercise. However, being sick or under stress can also raise your blood sugar levels.

Your GP can organise for a blood glucose test to be undertaken to see if your body is able to metabolise glucose effectively.

6. You lead a sedentary lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle which lacks moderate physical activity can contribute to a range of disorders such as stress, anxiety, depression and can also contribute to heart disease. Before beginning any exercise program it is important to consult your doctor, however a generally accepted standard is 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day.

Getting active is more important than ever as more and more people spend most of their days behind a desk. Did you know sitting for long periods temporarily deactivates an enzyme in the walls of your blood capillaries called Lipoprotein Lipase that breaks down fats in the blood? So when you sit you are not burning fat nearly aswell as when you are moving around. Check out the video below for more hidden risks of sitting:

7. You smoke

In order to reduce the risk of heart disease, the most important lifestyle change you can make is to quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke. Smoking not only increases your risk of blood clots but is known to harden your artery walls. After just one year of quitting smoking, your risk of dying from heart disease is cut by 50 percent. So there is no better time to stop than today.

8. You have sleep apnoea

Snoring may not just be a frustrating noise one makes whilst asleep, it can actually be an indication of a condition called sleep apnoea. The condition is caused when excess body fat in the neck presses on the main tubes to the lungs. In deep sleep, the walls of these tubes can be completely sucked together which results in no air entering the lungs and reduces the oxygen levels in the blood.

Sleep apnoea more commonly effects men than women. Untreated sleep apnoea can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, impotence, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. If you think you might be at risk, it is best to consult a medical professional to organise a test.