In Part 1 of my series on heart health, I discussed some facts about how the heart works and the types of things that can go wrong with the cardiovascular system, the most common being cardiovascular disease.
So, what can you do to avoid cardiovascular disease and keep that marvelous little muscle healthy?
It is all about eliminating risk factors. Some risk factors, like gender, ethnicity and increasing age, you can do nothing about but that does not mean you cannot significantly reduce the chance of getting heart disease by tackling those risk factors you can control. These include:
- High blood pressure – the higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your heart and blood vessels
- High cholesterol – too much “bad” cholesterol (known as low density lipoprotein or LDL) can increase the build up of atheromas within the walls of your arteries. Things that can raise your cholesterol levels include a diet that is high in saturated fat, smoking, lack of physical exercise, high alcohol intake, and kidney or liver disease
- Being overweight – increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes (diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood, which can affect the walls of your arteries and make them more likely to develop atheromas)
- Inactivity – increases the risk of being overweight and developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The heart needs to be exercised regularly to keep it strong and healthy (just 30 minutes of walking spread throughout the day will help to keep your heart healthy and strengthen your muscles).
- Smoking – directly linked to development of atherosclerosis, which narrows the blood vessels and increases strain on the heart; smoking also raises blood pressure through the actions of nicotine, reduces oxygen levels in the blood (meaning your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with enough oxygen), and makes the blood clot more easily (increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke)
- Alcohol consumption – drinking more than the recommended limits (3 units a day for men, 2 units a day for women) can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, damage to the heart muscle and other diseases such as stroke, liver problems and some cancers
Take action now!
Regular exercise, a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat and salt, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake will all contribute towards a happier, healthier, stronger heart and better long-term health, whether you currently have heart disease or not!
So… How Can an Osteopath Help?
Although osteopaths treat many conditions, most people think of us as ‘back specialists’. While back pain is what many osteopaths treat a lot of the time, osteopaths not only correct and restore proper function to your spine but also your joints, muscles, and blood circulation so your body can heal itself naturally.
Osteopaths have a holistic approach and believe that your whole body will work well if your body is in good structural balance. Tension in the body caused by tight muscles or joints can starve organs and tissues of blood and interfere with the drainage of waste products so there is a build up of toxins. We use a wide range of techniques to release tension and restore function, including massage, cranial techniques (sometimes referred to as 'cranial osteopathy') and joint mobilization and this breadth of approach allows us to focus on every patient’s precise needs.
If you would like an appointment with me to help improve your circulation or relieve aches, pains or tensions throughout your body, please call the db Foot Clinic on 01273 493467. Or why not book a free* heart health check, which I am offering this February as part of Heart Awareness month, in support of the British Heart Foundation? (*Donations to British Heart Foundation gratefully received but by no means compulsory!)
Please note, if you are receiving medication for heart, blood pressure or circulatory problems and decide to try osteopathic treatment, you should continue on your medication and attend regular check-ups as required by your GP. Osteopathy cannot directly treat cardiovascular disease, rather it can help support the body in functioning as well as it can.