Guest Blog by Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.
This February the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging people to take just 10 minutes a day during Heart Month to help cut their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Worryingly, there are more than seven million people in the UK living with cardiovascular disease (CVD), and latest statistics show that lifestyle habits are getting worse.
Less than a third of adults in England are eating fives portions of fruit and vegetables a day1 and households are buying fewer vegetables per person1.
People aren’t doing enough regular exercise with nearly half of adults saying they never do any moderate physical activity2.
In a recent survey3, the public told us loud and clear that time, motivation and money are fundamental barriers to a healthy lifestyle.
And around 40 per cent people said they were worried about the effect that their current diet and exercise habits have on their health3.
But we know that even small, simple changes to everyday habits can make a big difference for heart health, and are achievable by everyone.
It is possible that people who try to drastically overhaul their lifestyle with New Year resolutions, may fail by February because they try to take too much on.
Nearly a fifth of people told us they often set themselves goals for improving their lifestyle, but usually fail3.
For people who struggle to fit any exercise into their busy regime, the thought of 150 minutes a week could put them off altogether.
We support the current guideline but believe that people can get there by starting off with small bouts of at least 10 minutes a day that would put them on a path to a healthier lifestyle.
Whether it’s getting off the bus two stops earlier, using the stairs rather than a lift or dancing for ten minutes to your favourite album, there are lots of ways to start introducing extra exercise into your daily routine.
If you’re looking to improve your diet, making small changes such as swapping a sugary fizzy drink for a glass of water, or swapping sweets for a piece of fruit, would be beneficial to heart health.
Rather than using salt, you could flavour your food with pepper, herbs, garlic, spices or lemon juice instead.
So our message is simple, anything is better than nothing, and taking small actions to improve your heart health will help decrease your risk of developing CVD.
During Heart Month the BHF is offering an email support programme and advice to help people improve their diet, get more active or quit smoking. For more information about the Heart Month 10 minute challenge visit www.bhf.org.uk/heartmonth or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag, #10MinChallenge.
1) Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2014, British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention. Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford
2) Physical Activity Statistics 2015, British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention. Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford
3) All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,766 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th-20th January 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)
4) Effect of Intensity and Type of Physical Activity on Mortality: Results From the Whitehall II Cohort Study
The BHF Alliance
If your role plays a part in the prevention, survival or support of people with or at risk from CVD, you are eligible to join our free membership organisation, the BHF Alliance. The Alliance seeks to grow and nurture a supportive and inspirational network in which every member can maximise their potential to make a difference, and share experiences to assist the development of others. Our Alliance members are equipped with support, information and resources to help them impact positively on patient care, service improvement, prevention of disease and survival rates from sudden cardiovascular events. Visit https://www.bhf.org.uk/healthcare-professionals/bhf-alliance to join the Alliance.