Want to know how young your heart is?
Public Health England has created an online calculator to work out what your heart age is compared to your actual age. You can take the quiz here.
It asks for your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you do not know them, then this is a great time to get them checked out by a quick trip to the nurse.
High blood pressure has no symptoms so you only find out by getting your blood pressure taken if it is normal or not. It is a simple way to help you to age well and catch any issues early.
There is a lot you can do to help improve your heart health. Your heart may be impacted by lowering estorogen at menopause as well as any hereditary issues so it is worthwhile to be proactive and minimise any risks. The risk of coronary heart disease increases post-menopause.
It may sound odd to say that I am grateful that High Blood Pressure runs in my family (I obviously don’t wish anyone harm) but it was a real catalyst in my early 30s in which I took ownership for my health and how my lifestyle could impact my health. I started to exercise and changed how I ate and generally looked after myself.
What is best exercise for heart health?
Your heart is a muscle and it requires to be trained like any other muscle. The more efficient your heart is, the less work it has to do to pump blood around your body at rest.
We often think of cardio exercise just for burning calories. However, it’s main benefit is to strengthen your heart and lungs.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. The intensity levels are getting out of puff but to have a conversation whilst exercising. This gives you plenty of options with walking being the simplest one. If you live in a city such as Edinburgh which is built on a hill, then it is quite easy!
The 150 minutes can be broken up into time slots that suit you over the week. Ideally making it easy for you to maintain on a long term basis i.e. the rest of your life!
What is best activity for heart health?
You will have heard sitting is the new smoking; however this is how most of us are earning a living, by sitting on our bums. One of the best things you can do throughout the day is to get up every hour and move for 2 minutes. Being active helps to move blood around your body again. Your mother may have told you to stop fidgeting but it is probably one of the best things you can do as an adult! My FitBit has the ‘Reminders to move’ option set which means I get buzzed at 50 minutes to the hour if I haven’t walked 250 steps. It does not sound much but while I have been sitting typing this it has buzzed me. Getting up to make a cup of tea and a wee tidy up of the kitchen has hit my step count for the hour. It is finding out what your base levels are and working out what you need to do from there.
Best foods for heart health
Monitoring your salt intake will help with your heart health. Check food labels to ensure you are within daily limits of 6g a day. Healthy foods such as soups are notorious for having high salt levels. If you eat out a lot you may be inadvertently be consuming more salt than you realise.
Ideally keeping your waistline under 80 cms. This may be a challenge in your menopause as your hormones fluctuate. You can become sensitive to both stress and carbs through your menopause which may expand your waistline. A ‘eat less and exercise more’ approach will not cut it. ‘Stress less and move more’ may be more appropriate.
A heavy heart?
Life happens and you rarely get into your 40s without an old hurt to let go. Perhaps needing to forgive yourself if, in retrospect you would have done something differently.
The heart chakra is in the middle of the 7 main chakras in the body. It is thought that it is a filter that all energy in the body should go through, so you always speak with love for example. Any energy healing practice such as Reiki or EFT can help if you feel you have stuff to let go in order to make room for new.
Love is always the answer and finding gratitude is a great place to start in any situation.
I have been singing Young at Heart from the Bluebells while writing this. Still a great song and the video looks so unsophisticated compared to what they make today! You can find it here on YouTube
Samantha Valand is the author of “The Menopause Diaries: A practical guide to healthy eating and exercising in your menopausal years”.
You can find out more about her book here.
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