Written by Gurleen Khaira
During everything you will do today, whether that be reading this blog, eating or sleeping, your heart will be continuously pumping blood around your body. The muscle never stops. And it is imperative that it never does. This is because the heart circulates oxygenated blood all around your body; from your head to your toes, making sure every organ has sufficient oxygen levels to carry out their functions. This clearly makes the heart a vital part of our health.
But how does the heart actually do this? Well, every time you breath in, oxygen enters your lungs. Deoxygenated blood from the right side of the heart arrives at the lungs, where it collects the oxygen. This oxygenated blood then re-enters the heart through the left side, which pumps this oxygen all around the body. This is why the left wall of the heart is thicker than the right side, because it is responsible for supplying blood to the whole body (BBC Bitesize, 2019)
Unfortunately, this vital activity carried out by the heart is often disrupted due to cardiovascular disease. Now, the term ‘cardiovascular disease’ can cover many illnesses including coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. These illnesses are usually triggered by a blockage in an artery. Fatty plaques build up in the wall of the arteries, stiffening the wall and reducing the diameter of the artery, thus limiting blood flow. Basically, what this means is that blockages in the arteries restrict oxygen from getting to different parts of the body, Coronary heart disease, in particular refers to a blockage in the coronary arteries, which provide blood to the heart, thus reducing the volume of oxygenated blood reaching the heart muscle (NHS, 2018). With cardiovascular disease accounting for 1 in 3 deaths in the USA and 1.5 million people suffering from a heart attack or stroke each year, it is clear that this disease is a huge problem (Million Hearts, 2019).
As you can probably guess, this has huge consequences for the rest of the body too. A common outcome of heart disease is a stroke. This is when an artery in your brain becomes blocked, meaning certain areas of your brain no longer receive the oxygen levels they require. According to the Stroke Association, 100,000 people each year suffer from a stroke in the UK. This is 1 person every 5 minutes. This clearly highlights that many people have poor heart health and end up suffering from huge consequences due to this. After suffering from a stroke, many become paralysed or suffer memory loss. Simple tasks like following a TV program or finding the remote become huge obstacles which impact your everyday life.
Moreover, suffering from a stroke can also cause vascular dementia. This is when blood supply to certain areas of the brain decreases and the symptoms of dementia arise. It is estimated that up to 20% of dementia patients in the UK suffer from vascular dementia (Stroke Association, 2017). This highlights the huge importance of ensuring you have a healthy heart; as without this, you can suffer consequences that go way beyond the heart itself.
Heart disease can also impact your mental health. According to the Britsh Heart Foundation, 68% of people with the condition say that it impacted them mentally, emotionally and psychologically. This is because having a heart condition does not only impact your body, but it also impacts your life. More hospital appointments, changes in diet and exercise routines whilst having suffered an illness can be a lot to deal with. Because people are aware of the vitality of the heart, many also feel scared of the future and worry about their family. This emotional impact can, unfortunately, carry on to other aspects of your life. 29% of people who suffered from a heart disease say the mental impact influenced their ability to work and 22% say that it placed a strain on their relationship (BHF, 2017).
Clearly the heart is vital for our health. But, how can you ensure you have a healthy heart? Firstly, it is important to have a balanced and healthy diet. This means you should aim to minimise your consumption of saturated fats and added sugars, and instead focus on eating more vegetables and fruits. Drinking alcohol and smoking are also huge contributors of heart disease, therefore you should decrease the amount of alcohol you are drinking and, ideally, stop smoking. As you can probably guess, exercise is vital for heart health. Just like any other muscle in your body, your heart also needs a workout. This strengthens the heart and also improves blood flow around the body.
The MindMate app is a great way to get started on ensuring you have a healthy heart. With healthy recipes and fun workouts, you will easily be able to adapt your lifestyle routine to a healthier and more beneficial one.