Healthy heart support

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It's estimated that there are around 79,000 people living with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) in Ireland.* The good news is, there are things you can do to help protect your heart. From making a few simple lifestyle changes to understanding your risk factors and how to manage them, we can help you take positive steps towards keeping your heart healthy and happy.

Why is heart health important?

Your heart works hard every day. Like every other muscle in your body, it needs exercise and nutrients to keep it working well, help keep your risk of CHD low and help prevent heart conditions such as angina, strokes and heart attacks.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a health condition. So, the more risk factors you have for CHD, the greater your risk of developing heart problems.

There are two types of risk factor: non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors can't be changed and include things like age, gender, ethnicity and family history. Modifiable risk factors, however, are things you have control over. These include:

High cholesterol

High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for CHD, affecting 10% of Irish people. Keeping an eye on things will help you stay one step ahead when it comes to heart health.

What causes high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is made by the liver, which means levels may be naturally higher in some people. Some inherited conditions can also cause high cholesterol, so it's worth checking your cholesterol levels even if you lead a healthy lifestyle. A diet high in saturated fat is one of the main causes of high cholesterol.

How can I manage my cholesterol?

Small changes to your everyday routine can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level and lower your risk of CHD. These include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Cutting down on saturated fat
  • Eating more fish
  • Choosing high-fibre foods
  • Staying on top of any cholesterol-lowering medicines, as prescribed by your doctor

Quitting smoking is really important for your heart health. It's never too late to give up and your Boots Pharmacy team can support you every step of the way.

How does smoking affect my heart?

Smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease and can harm your heart in lots of ways:

  • Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, so your heart has to work harder
  • Tobacco smoke damages the artery walls, leading to a build-up of fatty deposits that narrow the arteries and can cause angina, heart attacks and strokes
  • Nicotine stimulates the body's adrenaline production, making your heart beat faster and raising your blood pressure
  • Blood becomes 'stickier'. Blood cells can clump together and form clots, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes
Being overweight

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight will make a big difference to your heart health and is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health and wellbeing.

How does my weight affect my heart?

Being overweight makes it harder for your heart to do its job properly. This extra pressure on your heart increases your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two of the main risk factors for CHD.

How do I know if I might need to lose weight?

To find out whether you need to lose weight, you can measure your waist or check your Body Mass Index (BMI). Men measuring over 94cm/37in and women measuring over 80cm/32in around the waist would benefit from losing weight. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Type 2 diabetes

Around 141,000 adults in Ireland have diabetes. Diabetes is what happens when your body doesn't produce enough (or any) insulin, leading to high glucose (sugar) levels in your blood. This increases the damage caused by some of the major risk factors for CHD, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

What causes diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition and type 2 diabetes, which is more common, is closely linked with being overweight and physically inactive, as well as family history. It can occur more frequently among some ethnic groups.

How can I find out if I'm at risk?

Ask your Boots pharmacy team about a free Diabetes Risk Assessment or find out more about the service by clicking here. If you're at risk, we'll help you take active, positive steps to lower your risk and help you feel in control of your health.

What else can I do to take care of my heart?

As well as managing the risk factors associated with CHD, there are a few other lifestyle tweaks you can make to help look after your heart. These include restricting the amount of alcohol you drink and taking steps to manage your stress levels.