Sep 24 2013

World Heart Day – five ways Harrow residents can look after their ticker

harrow_council_logo2To mark this Sunday’s World Heart Day, Harrow Council’s public health team have put together five simple ways for cardiovascular care.

Currently around 17.3m lives each year are claimed by heart disease and stroke making them the world’s leading cause of death. By 2030 it is expected that 23m people will die from cardiovascular disease – that is more than the population of Australia.

In Harrow, each year there are around 220 deaths from coronary heart disease and around 75 of them occur in people under age 75 years old – classed as a premature death. Around 475 people die each year from all circulatory disease with around 120 premature deaths.

Harrow Council is working to prevent the future impact of heart disease and stroke by encouraging heart-healthy living from childhood throughout adulthood. There are five key areas in which Harrow residents can make a difference – stopping smoking, healthy eating, staying active, blood pressure and diabetes.

Dr Andrew Howe, Director of Public Health at Harrow Council, said: “World Heart Day is a fantastic opportunity for people to think about their health and the risks to their heart through unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity and exposure to tobacco. Cardiovascular disease can affect people of all ages and population groups but it is more common in the Black and Asian groups that make up a high proportion of Harrow’s population. By following our five ways to look after your heart you can make a real difference to your future health.”

Cllr Simon Williams, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “We are proud that Harrow already has the highest life expectancy for men than any other London borough, and one of the highest for women. We want that number to be even higher. Good heart health should start from childhood so it is important that parents not only think about cardiovascular care for themselves, but also their children. By creating the right lifestyle habits now we can avoid many of the needless cardiovascular disease related deaths each year.”
Harrow Council’s five ways to better cardiovascular care:

Smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, and smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked. Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health, and the good news is that the risk to your heart health decreases significantly soon after you stop.

The borough has seen a fall in the number of smokers in recent years – less than 17% of Harrow residents now smoke, compared to 24% for England as a whole. The public health team provide a thorough stop smoking service, including one-to-one sessions and nicotine replacement therapy.

To quit, ask your local pharmacy or contact Harrow Stop Smoking Service on 020 8420 9536 or http://www.harrow.gov.uk/info/100010/health_and_social_care/999/stoptober to get a free Quit Kit.

A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stop you gaining weight – reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of some cancers. Even if you already have a heart condition, a healthy diet can benefit your heart.

Everyone should aim for a well balanced diet. Choose options that are lower in fat, salt and sugar whenever you can. Try to eat:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables – a third of your meals should be fruit and veg;
  • plenty of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Choose wholegrain varieties wherever possible. Only a third of your meal should be starchy foods;
  • some meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu and other non-dairy sources of protein;
  • some milk and dairy products; and
  • only a small amount of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar.

Staying active is great for keeping your heart healthy and – along with eating a healthy diet – can help you manage your weight. We should all be aiming to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Here are our tips to getting active

  • Start small
  • Set yourself a goal – but be realistic!
  • Make it easy to achieve your goals by building exercise into your daily life
  • Variety is the spice of life – vary your activities
  • Set reminders like post it notes where you can see them
  • Reward yourself with non-edible things

High blood pressure is just one of the risk factors for developing heart and circulatory disease, along with high cholesterol, diabetes and other lifestyle factors. As many as 5 million people in the UK are walking around, undiagnosed, with high blood pressure. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.

Know Your Number!

Everyone should know their blood pressure. Everyone over 40 should have their blood pressure taken by a nurse or doctor as part of a health check to assess their risk for getting heart and circulatory disease.

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone without diabetes. Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood. This can affect the walls of your arteries, and make them more likely to develop the fatty deposits that cause coronary heart disease. Diabetes occurs in two forms.

  • Type one diabetes occurs when your body cannot make insulin. This type usually affects children and young adults.
  • Type two diabetes occurs when your body can’t produce enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work properly. Type two diabetes is more common and tends to develop gradually as people get older – usually after the age of 40. It’s closely linked with being overweight, physically inactive and with a family history of diabetes.

If you have diabetes

It’s very important to make sure that you control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol to help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. To do this you can do more physical activity, eat a healthy, balanced diet, control your weight, and give up smoking. You should have a regular yearly check up at your doctor’s surgery to monitor your health.

Raising awareness of diabetes and diagnosing it early

Diabetes is a disease that usually develops over time and often people don’t recognise the symptoms until they have had it for a long time. In addition to the services provided by GPs in Harrow, the council is working with Silver Star, a registered charity with a new office in Harrow, to promote awareness of diabetes and identify people with unknown diabetes. It runs a Mobile Diabetes Assessment Unit, which provides free diabetes testing for all those who may wish to have one. The Unit travels to local community centres, work places and other organisations where it measure the weight, height, waist and blood glucose level. http://www.silverstaruk.org/

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