It’s the most important muscle of the lot – so make sure you’re training, fuelling and resting your heart exactly the way science says you should
Run for it
‘The heart is a muscle,’ says Lucy Wilkinson, senior cardiac nurse at the BHF. ‘And, like any other, if you force it to work hard, you strengthen it – making it better at its job and more efficient.’ She advises lacing up your trainers and hitting the road to train your ticker. ‘Running raises your heart rate for a sustained amount of time, giving it a good workout,’ she says. ‘Your arteries also feel the benefit, as cardio sessions will stop them furring up.’
Getting down with the dog and doing a bit of broga won’t just improve your flexibility, it can elongate the lifespan of your heart, too. Recent research in the European Journal Of Cardiovascular Nursing found regular yoga sessions lowered heart rate and blood pressure scores among men and women with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes irregularities in heartbeat.
Fill up with fibre
Start your day with a high-fibre breakfast like porridge, wheat or bran cereals, or wholemeal bread with a portion of fruit. ‘Last year, the government revised its guidelines for fibre consumption, increasing the recommendation to 30g per day,’ explains Vicki Litherland, lifestyle officer at Heart Research UK. ‘Not only is fibre important for gut health and digestive transit, but high-fibre foods can also help lower your cholesterol to keep your heart healthy.’
Take the test
‘If you’re over 40, take up the free NHS health check,’ says Wilkinson. ‘It can identify your risk of coronary heart disease.’ If you’re younger but are concerned, talk to your GP about tests that can highlight heart issues, such as a cholesterol check. ‘This screens for potential artery blocking fats,’ Wilkinson explains. Healthy adults should have a cholesterol score of five or less, while their LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol score should be three or under.