03 Sep 2020

6 Simple Steps to Keep your Heart Healthy

Putting your Health at the Heart of Family Life

We’re all doing our best to stay safe these days, as we face new and unprecedented challenges to our health. That doesn’t mean existing health risks have gone away, though; cardiovascular disease is still a big problem in Ireland, with heart disease and strokes among the leading causes of death.

The good news is that there are lots of simple ways you can help keep you and your loved ones’ hearts in tip-top condition. By building these six steps into your weekly routines, you can enjoy nutritious meals, outdoor exercise, and quality time with your family, while making sure they stay fit and healthy too.

1. Eat Heart-Healthy Foods

It’s no secret that eating well lowers our risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. Adopting a healthy diet can keep our weight at a healthy level, reduce our blood pressure and lower our cholesterol, all of which help to keep the old ticker in good shape.

The Irish government publishes a handy Food Pyramid, which makes it easy to identify wholesome foods for everyday meals, such as fruit, vegetables and proteins, as well as occasional treats, such as chocolate or sugary drinks. They advise cutting down on salt too and limiting our alcohol intake. Try taking the kids foraging for some fun ingredients to make non-alcoholic cordials at home: elderflower works great, as do blackberries, or even nettles, if you’re feeling brave!

Cooking fresh meals can be a great way to spend time together as a family: pop on some good music, look up a delicious-sounding recipe, divide up the food prep and get creative in the kitchen.

2. Supplement your diet

It can sometimes be difficult to always make good food choices, though, as family life is busier than ever these days. Most of us get sufficient vitamins and nutrients from our diets, but occasionally we need a helping hand, and that’s where supplements come in.

At Hickey’s Pharmacy, we have a range of quality products to help support a healthy heart. Omega 3 fatty acids and Revive Krill Oil can lower your blood pressure and reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood. MorEPA Cholesterol is a unique food supplement with a host of vitamins and minerals that support a strong and healthy heart. Armolipid is another great formulation which helps to control cholesterol as part of a balanced diet.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a little different, as it functions like an antioxidant, working to protect your body from damaging free radicals. If you or a family member are on statins to help with heart disease, CoQ10 can also reduce potential side effects, such as fatigue or aches and pains.

If you’re not sure where to start supplementing, just call or visit our pharmacies - our trained staff are on hand to point you in the right direction.

3. Manage your Stress

It’s easier said than done, but controlling our stress levels helps to protect our heart health. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce hormones, which, over time, can damage our arteries and lead to high blood pressure. Plus, when we’re under pressure, we tend to reach for comforts we know aren’t good for us, such as cigarettes, excess alcohol, or sugary snacks.

There are lots of simple, low-cost ways to combat stress, though. It helps to get into a more balanced work / life routine, with structured hours for office or administrative tasks, and a set time for turning off the computer or muting mobile devices. Try to carve out a little ‘me time’, to meditate, enjoy a bubble bath or just get lost in a great novel. There are fun ways to de-stress together too: why not put on a comedy show for family TV time? Or break out the board games - they usually get people laughing!

4. Get moving and stay active

One of the best ways to stay happy and heart-healthy is to move more, particularly outside, where you can enjoy the calming effect of nature as well as mood-boosting endorphins. Whether you’re walking, running, cycling or swimming, exercise helps to lower blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, and strengthen heart muscles.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Slí na Sláinte (‘Path to Health’) Programme encourages people to walk more and enjoy additional benefits from their exercise. They have 150 routes all over Ireland, from the countryside to the coast, and through all the cities in between.

Check their website to find your nearest route or keep an eye out for their bright yellow and blue signposts on your local roads. This is a great way for the whole family to explore the Irish landscape and enjoy the great outdoors while getting fit and heart-healthy.

5. Break the Habit

We know that smoking isn’t good for our lungs, but it’s also a major factor in cardiovascular disease, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Passive smoking can damage the health of others around you too, especially children and elderly relatives. The good news is that it’s never too late to quit: within one year of giving up smoking, your risk of having a heart attack is cut to half that of a smoker.

If you or someone in your family smokes, there is support available to help you or your loved one to give up cigarettes for good. At Hickeys’ Pharmacy, we have a specialised smoking cessation service with expert advice, Nicotine replacement therapies and tried-and-tested tips for getting through those tough days.

We know that cravings are strong, and slip-ups can happen, but you’ll always have a friendly face rooting for you at your local pharmacy, there to support you when you try again tomorrow.

6. Keep on top of your health

One of the best ways to stay heart-healthy is to get regular check-ups. This is especially important if there is a family history of cardiovascular disease: talk to older relatives to make sure you’ve a full picture of your family’s health challenges throughout the years.

With our on-site services*, it’s easier than ever to stay on top of your health within a safe and friendly environment. Access free blood pressure tests at your local Hickey’s Pharmacy and arrange for cholesterol testing or 24-hour blood pressure monitoring (available in selected stores). We also have a selection of at-home blood pressure monitors to choose from so you can keep a check on your blood pressure levels in the convenience of your home.

Our trained staff and pharmacists are here to offer support to customers of all ages. If you have a persistent niggle or a worry about your health, don’t ignore it - just get in touch. We have a saying in-store that we’ve used for many years; ‘if in doubt, check it out!’

*Please note due to COVID-19 restrictions some pharmacies are operating a reduced range of services, please contact your local Hickey’s Pharmacy in advance to check if the blood pressure or cholesterol service is available.

Our Experts are Here to Help

If you’d like to take steps towards getting heart-healthy, we can help you on your journey and assist you in reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. We’re never far away, and always here to help you make a change - for better health for you and all your family.