Are you a Heart Health Champion, Cheerleader or Spectator? We all differ in our approach to heart health, and your heart health personality will determine the steps you should take to look after this vital organ. Dr Meg Arroll reveals all.
According to the Office for National Statistics, heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death in the UK, even though we can change the course of many risk factors associated with cardiovascular illness.
For example, it's well known that physical activity, a healthy diet and keeping stress in check can help keep our hearts healthy – but this is often easier said than done. So why do we all differ in our approach to heart health?
We each have a unique set of drivers which include our thoughts, beliefs, previous experience and innate traits, which taken together put us on autopilot when it comes to health behaviours. These are our heart health personalities.
The three heart health personalities
Want to know what heart health personality you are? Take our quiz.
1. Heart Health Champion
You're already engaged in many heart-supportive behaviours such as attending check-ups, keeping yourself active, eating well and managing stress. However, make sure that you regularly tweak your exercise and lifestyle regime and keep exploring new ways to be creative and calm. Sometimes Champions can become a little perfectionist about health, so don't forget to have little treats and rewards every now and then.
Mindset tip from Dr Meg Arroll
Create your own Health Bucket List: as a Heart Health Champion you're very good at sticking to a health plan, but we know that nudging our boundaries just a little can increase both physical and mental strength. Always wanted to climb Snowdon? Write it down! Research shows that declaring intentions helps them stick. Then make sure to celebrate and reward every tick on that list to increase wellbeing and a sense of gratitude.
Try Love Your Heart. This supplies essential nutrients, including coenzyme Q10, omega 3, black garlic, magnesium, L-arginine, B vitamins plus vitamins K2 and E.
Eat at least one serving of oily fish each week, advises nutritionist Rob Hobson. "Oily fish helps to reduce risk factors for heart disease by increasing HDL [good] cholesterol," he explains.
Learn your family history of heart disease. If your father or brother was diagnosed below the age of 55, or your mother or sister below the age of 65, then your risk is increased.
Mix up your exercise routine and set a few challenges, suggests personal trainer Christina Howells. "Interval training will challenge your fitness by raising your pulse to its upper limits. You want to feel like you're working hard, and the rest phase allows your heart rate to recover."
2. Heart Health Cheerleader
You're absolutely amazing at looking after and cheering on everyone else, so sometimes your own health takes a back seat. You do generally know what to do to keep your heart healthy, but a busy life can scupper your best intentions. Hence, Cheerleaders need to give themselves permission to prioritise self-care, as you'll be in a much better state of health to look after others when you put yourself front and centre.
Mindset tip from Dr Meg Arroll
Write a Self-Care Checklist: as a Cheerleader, it's far too easy to overlook self-care, so focus back in on the basics and write a checklist. This should include all those little things that nurture your heart and mind – even very simple activities like taking five minutes of 'me time' with a cuppa can make a big difference to daily stress levels and heart health. After all, it's the little things that make a big difference to health.
Try Healthspan Plant Sterols. Plant sterols can lower levels of LDL-cholesterol by up to 15% and, when used in conjunction with statins, are more effective than doubling the statin dose.
"Switch to olive oil for all cooking purposes," advises Rob Hobson. "It contains cardioprotective polyphenols, which help to reduce inflammation, while the monounsaturated fats lower non-HDL cholesterol [bad] and increase HDL [good] cholesterol in the body."
"Know your numbers for heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol," says Dr Ameet Bakhai, consultant cardiologist from Spire Bushey. "We can put ourselves at risk by not being aware of the basics – all of which can impact our lifespan." Make sure, if you're over 40, that you book your NHS GP check-up.
Move more – any type of movement that makes your heart work harder than usual. Dancing, brisk walking, swimming or cycling can all improve your cardiovascular fitness, says Christina Howells. (An Australian study that followed 48,000 people for 10 years found that regular dancing almost halved the risk of dying from heart disease in people over 40!)
3. Heart Health Spectator
You are much more of an observer than a participant when it comes to health. You're not unaware of health advice, but somehow the long road of life has left you feeling a little sidelined. Therefore, Spectators need to start believing in themselves and their power to write their own destinies – your health is in your hands. Below are some easy ways to boost confidence and motivation, with practical tips that fit into your life.
Mindset tip from Dr Meg Arroll
Inaction around health is rarely about laziness or ineptitude. Instead, life's knocks and scrapes can get you down and make taking care of your health feel out of reach. Boost self-worth by focusing on all the amazing things you've done in the past (health-related or otherwise) – write down even the tiniest things such as 'I listened to my friend's problems even though I didn't really want to' in order to own those positive actions. You are absolutely worthy of good health – this exercise will help to remind you of that.
Try Healthspan Ubiquinol Max. This is the active form of coenzyme Q10, and was created with the help of a cardiologist to include the right combination of ingredients for heart health and energy.
Five-a-day is one small change that will significantly improve your heart health, explains Rob Hobson, yet only 30% of Brits manage it. "Think in grams (400g) rather than portions. A stir-fry with chopped peppers, mushrooms and broccoli makes up half your daily total."
Try out the NHS Heart Age Checker, suggests Dr Bakhai. Work out how to protect your heart by making small lifestyle changes.
Just walk, advises Christina Howells. "Start with 10-15 minutes a day and increase to at least 30 minutes while you increase your speed. Keep your head lifted, shoulders relaxed and let your arms swing naturally." Consider getting a dog – studies show that people who own pooches are less stressed and more likely to exercise.