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Sacred heart

Look after your heart if you want to live a healthy life. There has never been a better time to take stock and follow this expert advice than during September, Irish Heart Month

Number one killer

“Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer in Ireland claiming one life here every hour,” says Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation.

“The good news is that 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable which reaffirms the need for increased awareness of heart disease and stroke prevention and symptoms. At the IHF, we strongly advocate healthier lifestyles and a less toxic environment. Prevention is crucial and we advise stopping smoking, increasing exercise to at least 30 minutes five times a week, improving diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and having regular checks to measure blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.”

The heart is a muscle

Carl Cautley of Fitness Together in Ranelagh, Dublin: “The heart is probably the most important muscle in the body. Its main function is to pump oxygen and nutrients around your whole system. Therefore a healthy heart is essential for good health.

When we look at improving our heart health through exercise we automatically gravitate towards cardiovascular training such as running, cycling, swimming, cross-trainer, rowing etc. But any form of exercise that raises the heart rate will improve your cardiovascular system. Weight training done the right way will not only tone the full body but will actually improve your heart health as well.”

Get moving

Tom Dalton of Tom Dalton Fitness in Blackrock, Dublin: “When it comes to a healthy heart, any form of movement is better than sitting. I use circuit or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with my clients, which is a great way to increase your cardiovascular fitness.

“When you workout at high intensity the blood starts to pump a lot harder, which stretches the arteries and improves the elasticity of the heart. Look for minimal rest periods and alternate between the upper and lower body exercises for maximum results.

“Body weight training can be extremely effective for a healthy heart. Also it is low cost as no equipment is needed and you can tailor it to your needs. I use this with clients who can’t make it to the gym, but are looking for a quick home workout to fit into their schedule.

“Ask yourself what exercise do you enjoy? Cycling, walking, running, swimming, yoga… all exercise is beneficial to a healthy heart.”

Physical activity

Ann Scanlon is health promotion officer of the Irish Heart Foundation: “Not being active is a major risk for cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease, just like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. The heart, like any other muscle, needs physical activity to keep it in good condition. All it takes is 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity five days a week. Moderate intensity means you will feel some effort, your heart rate and breathing will increase and you will feel warmer all over.

“When done regularly, moderate intensity physical activity strengthens your heart muscle. This improves your heart’s ability to pump blood to your lungs and throughout your body and reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The best type of activity to keep your heart healthy is aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is any repetitive movement that involves large muscle groups such as legs, shoulders and arms –such as walking or cycling.”

Regular moderate physical activity can:

  • Prevent high blood pressure from developing
  • Reduce and control high blood pressure
  • Help to raise the level of good cholesterol in your body
  • Help manage blood sugar and insulin levels which help prevent type 2 diabetes
  • Help reduce overweight and obesity when combined with a healthy diet

Check out

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Be Active leaflet here and their website for more on walking leader training and physical activity events such as the Midlands Cycle Tour with Sean Kelly.

Exercise of the issue:

Lift and Press

My favourite exercise to achieve a great all-over body workout and challenge the cardio system is the Lift and Press. Find a weight that you are comfortable lifting above your head and then do 3 sets of 15 repetitions. If you are not puffing and panting with serious muscle fatigue after 10 reps, increase the weight. – Carl Cautley

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