How to take care of your heart! All your heart health questions answered

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We all know that we need to take care of our hearts.

But knowing we need to do something and actually doing something.

In fact, so many of us don’t even know how to take care of our hearts.

We sat down with Consultant Cardiologist Dr Richard Armstrong at Blackrock Health so we could get all our pressing questions answered.

Pic: Pexels

So, how can we take care of our hearts?

Dr Richard Armstrong tells us: “There are many simple ways we can look after our hearts to decrease the risk of disease. A healthy lifestyle involving regular exercise and a balanced diet is key.

“Smoking and alcohol are contributors to heart problems, and it is recommended to do what you can to reduce stress levels. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough sleep are important too. Knowing the symptoms of heart disease and when it’s time to visit your doctor are vital.”

We know exercise can help our heart. Is there a specific exercise we should be doing?

“You can choose whatever sort of exercise you please, but advice from the World Health Organisation suggests it should be for at least 30 minutes on five days of the week.

“Choose an activity that gets your heart pumping and forces you to break a sweat. Fast walking, running, cycling or swimming are all great choices but choose something you will do consistently and that you enjoy.”

And what should we be eating?

Dr Richard Armstrong says: “To keep cholesterol and blood pressure low, salty and processed foods should be avoided as much as possible.

“This includes red meat, full fat dairy products especially butter, fried foods, oils and sugary foods. To maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight, foods like; fish, fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds should be included in your diet.”

Pic: Pexels

What signs should we look out for when it comes to heart issues?

Dr Richard Armstrong says: “Symptoms of heart disease and cardiac issues can vary from person to person based on the type and severity.”

Below are some signs to watch out for:

· Chest pain or discomfort

· Shortness of breath

· Fatigue

· Irregular heartbeat

· Dizziness or Fainting

· Cold sweats

· Nausea and indigestion

· Rapid weight gain

· Pressure, fullness, burning or tightness in the chest

· Crushing or searing pain that spreads to the back, neck, jaw, shoulders and one or both arms

· Pain that lasts more than a few minutes, gets worse with activity, ebbs and flows or varies in intensity.

· Racing heartbeats

· Acid reflux

· Trouble swallowing

· Pain that changes when you change body position

· Pain that gets worse when you cough or breathe deeply

· Tenderness when you push on your chest

· A fluttering, pounding or racing feeling in the chest

· A fast heartbeat

· A slow heartbeat

· Feeling your heart “skipping” beats

· Anxiety

· Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet

· Less able to exercise

· Wheezing

· A cough that doesn’t go away

· Swelling of the stomach area

· Difficulty concentrating

· Requiring additional pillows when sleeping as you may be unable to breathe properly lying flat

· Waking in the middle of the night struggling for breath

Pic: Pexels

Tell us what are the biggest misconceptions about heart health?

Dr Richard Armstrong explains: “Heart disease is often only considered as a health concern for men when in fact it is just as much of a threat for women, who often have unusual symptoms such as indigestion or breathlessness rather than chest pain or chest tightness.

“According to the Irish Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease kills up to 9,000 people in Ireland every year despite 80% of cases being preventable (2023, irishheart.ie). Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in Ireland for everyone and doesn’t discriminate on gender.”

New data has shown that the top reasons why people seek heart health investigations are chest pain at 51 per cent, palpitations caused by possible heart arrhythmia at 30 per cent and heart failure at 10 per cent, according to 2023 admission data from Blackrock Health’s Rapid Cardiac Care Service which is available at Blackrock Clinic, Galway Clinic and Hermitage Clinic.

Blackrock Health operates a Rapid Cardiac Care service which provides swift access to its team of cardiology specialists across its three hospitals, Blackrock Clinic, Galway Clinic and Hermitage Clinic, for cardiac patient care, with or without a GP referral.  This service provides fast and expert medical care to patients with worrying, acute cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or a racing pulse rate. 

To find out more, visit: https://www.blackrockhealth.com/rapid-cardiac-care


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