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From the importance of heart health to the lifestyle choices you can make, take a look at our top tips for showing your heart a little love

From our very first heartbeats, our hearts work hard to keep us healthy. The great news is, it’s never too late to start looking after your heart health, whether it’s making small changes to your lifestyle and diet or upping the exercise.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can go a long way – not only can it help reduce your risk of heart problems, but you’ll also feel the physical and mental benefit, too. So take a look at our top tips for taking care of your heart.

What is heart health & why is it important?

Your heart beats around 100,000 times a day without you even thinking about it. While you do your day-to-day, your heart is busy pumping blood through your body, supplying you with oxygen and nutrients, all while carrying away waste products and toxins. It just about does everything it can to keep us alive and healthy, so it’s only fair we repay the favour. Luckily, looking after your heart health is pretty easy.

There are lots of things you can do to help take care of your heart, and contribute to your overall health. This varies from making healthy lifestyle choices to understanding your risk factors and taking preventative measures to help reduce your chances of getting things like heart disease, among other conditions.

Don't miss the signs of a heart attack. Call 999.

If you’re not sure how healthy your heart is, you can complete the NHS heart age test to get an idea of what your heart age is compared to your real age – just answer a few questions. Alternatively, you can speak to your GP if you’d like more information.

Conditions that can affect heart health

There are several heart conditions that can impact your heart health, so it’s important to understand what they are, the causes and what symptoms to look out for. We’ve covered some of the most common heart conditions below, but more information can be found on the NHS and The British Heart Foundation.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when your coronary arteries become narrow from a build-up of fatty substances, which restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.

There’s a range of risk factors that can impact the health of your heart and increase your chances of getting coronary heart disease. This spans from physical inactivity, smoking and being overweight to having high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

 Common symptoms of coronary heart disease include:

• Chest pain (angina)

• Shortness of breath

• Pain that travels throughout the body

• Feeling faint

• Nausea

Speak to your GP as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms and call 999 if you’re struggling to breathe or have chest pain.

Heart attack

Heart attacks happen when there’s a sudden loss of blood flow to the heart, often caused by a blood clot. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and you should call 999 for an ambulance immediately. It can be life threatening and cause serious damage to the heart muscle. 

Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease. This condition causes the major blood vessels to the heart to get clogged by cholesterol deposits. If one of these ruptures, this can cause a blood clot that restricts blood and oxygen to the heart, causing a heart attack.

The most common signs of a heart attack include:

• Sudden chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away – a feeling of tightness, heaviness, or squeezing across your chest

• Pain that spreads to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach

• Shortness of breath

• Feeling sick

• Feeling sweaty and lightheaded

The chest pain is often severe, but some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion. Remember, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, but if you suspect you or someone you’re with is having a heart attack, it’s never too early to call 999, so do so immediately.

Heart failure

When your heart can’t pump blood around your body as well as it should, you’re not getting enough oxygen – this is known as heart failure. It’s a long-term condition that can happen when the heart becomes weaker or stiffer. This doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working, it just means you may need more help looking after it to make it work better.

Heart failure can happen as a result of a number of heart problems occuring at the same time, such as:

• Coronary heart disease

• A heart attack – this can cause long-term damage

• High blood pressure that puts strain on the heart

• Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)

• Cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle)

• Damage or other problems with the heart valves

Don't miss the signs of a heart attack. Call 999.

Other factors can impact heart failure such as obesity, drinking too much alcohol, anaemia and thyroid gland disease.

Some of the main symptoms of heart failure can include:

• Fainting or feeling lightheaded

• Feeling increasingly tired or weak when you’re resting, which is worsened by activity

• Breathlessness when you’re resting or active

• Swollen ankles, feet and legs 

You should speak to your GP as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms and call 999 if you’re struggling to breathe or have chest pain.

Heart palpitations

Heart palpitations are when your heart starts pounding or beating faster than usual, and can last seconds, minutes or sometimes longer. 

Heart conditions such as arrhythmia, heart failure and cardiomyopathy can cause heart palpitations, but other factors can include:

• Stress and anxiety

• Strenuous exercise

• Lack of sleep

 Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and recreational drugs

• Some medicines

People who experience heart palpitations may feel like their heart is:

• Racing or beating very fast

• Pounding or thumping

• Irregular, noticing skipped or extra beats (ectopic beats)

• Fluttering

Heart palpitations are common and often nothing to worry about but if you experience them regularly, speak to your GP.

Making simple changes to your lifestyle can have a great benefit and help reduce your risk of these heart conditions – and you’ll feel better for it, too!

How to help protect your heart health

Kickstarting a healthier lifestyle is a great way to help take care of your heart health – no matter your age – and making small changes to the way you live your life can make a big impact.

Want to get the ball rolling? Take a look at some of the key factors to help improve your heart health.


Not only is keeping active good for your physical and mental health, but it’s great for your heart health, too. It helps reduce the risk of having a heart attack, stroke and developing heart disease.

Doing regular cardiovascular activity such as walking, running, cycling and swimming can help strengthen bones and muscles, as well as making you feel happier and more energetic.

 The NHS recommends adults aged 19-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) every week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (such as running) a week. It’s best to speak to your GP before starting a new exercise routine or if you have a medical condition.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got some top tips for getting in that all-important exercise:

• Choose exercise activities you enjoy – the more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to keep it up

• Set realistic goals – don’t pressure yourself to exercise four or five times a week. Start slow if you need to and gradually build up your fitness level–any activity is better than none

• Make it social – to make things more fun, why not get your friends, family or dog to join in?

• Try sitting less – it can be hard for some of us but avoiding sitting for long periods of time can help lower your risk of heart disease


It’s important to try and maintain a healthy weight as this can help contribute to your overall heart health. This can be achieved through regular exercise as we mentioned above, in combination with a healthy, balanced diet.

Having a poor diet that involves lots of fats and sugars can lead to heart disease. The good news is, a healthy and balanced diet doesn’t have to be difficult.

Don't miss the signs of a heart attack. Call 999.

A low-fat, high-fibre diet is best when it comes to heart health. This means:

• Eating more fruit and vegetables 
– aim for at least five a day

• Incorporating wholegrains – these contain more nutrients such as dietary fibres and healthy fats

• Making healthy fat choices – saturated fats can increase your cholesterol, so try to eat more unsaturated fats such as avocados, fish and nuts

• Swapping salt for herbs and spices – having more than six grams of salt per day (one teaspoon) can increase your blood pressure, so swap out salt for herbs to get that flavour

The NHS has more guidance on how to eat a healthy balanced diet.

Quit smoking

If you do smoke, this can have a serious impact on your heart health. It damages the blood vessels leading to your heart and brain, causing circulatory diseases and making you four times more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke.

Giving up smoking will not only reduce your risk of developing heart disease, but your risk of having a heart attack is halved after one year. So, if you want to try and quit smoking, here are some things you can try:

• Reach out for support from loved ones

• Use stop smoking aids such as nicotine replacement therapy

• Speak to your doctor or find a stop smoking service at some Boots pharmacies

Reduce alcohol consumption

Limiting your alcohol consumption is beneficial for both your heart and your overall health, so it’s important to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women.

If you do drink, it’s a good idea to spread it out. The NHS advises:

• Having several drink-free days each week

• Avoiding drinking lots of alcohol in a short time (binge drinking)

 Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can:

• Raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels

• Increase your risk of a heart attack

• Cause abnormal heart rhythms

• Damage your heart muscle

• Cause heart palpitations

• Lead to diseases such as stroke and liver problems

If you’re struggling to cut down, ask your GP for help and advice.

Keep your blood pressure under control

Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level can help contribute to your overall heart health. So what can you do? Try to:

• Do regular physical activity

• Eat a healthy, balanced diet

• Moderate your alcohol intake

• Maintain a healthy weight

• Minimise your salt intake

You can get your blood pressure checked by your GP, at some pharmacies, or at home using a blood pressure monitor.

If your blood pressure is consistently high, particularly when you’re resting, it’s important to speak to your GP where they can advise you on possible treatments and how to help lower it. 

Maintain healthy cholesterol levels

Having high cholesterol can impact your heart health, but you can try to lower your cholesterol level by:

• Eating fewer fatty foods

• Exercising more

• Stopping smoking (if you do smoke)

• Drinking less alcohol

If you’re unsure what your cholesterol level is, you can get a blood test done by your GP or by using a home test kit.

Ready to show your heart a little love? With just a few simple lifestyle changes, prioritising your heart health has never been easier.

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