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Anxiety, stress, depression and your heart attack (or the other way around?)

Anxiety. Depression. Fear. Worry about the future. Don't worry - all these are common when you have a heart condition. Whether it be worrying about every little niggle that you feel (this is normal and due to you becoming extra sensitive to pain after a heart problem) to fear about whether you will be able to do all of the things you love again (tennis, golf, sex...?). Stop and take a breath - not only is it common, it's completely normal. Everyone recovers differently and goes through several different cycles before they feel themselves again (well a different version of themselves but one just as good as the past version!).

  • You may go through denial, fear, grief, frustration and sadness (sometimes all at the same time!)
  • You may take months to come to terms with the new 'you'
  • You may 'bounce back' with a can-do attitude only to hit a brick wall a few months later
  • You may have the 'tough guy/funny girl' exterior but be in agony on the inside
  • You may have a million more different experiences unique to you

Whilst there is no quick fix, there are a few things that you can do to make sure you are looking after your mental health as well as your physical:

  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Your partner, friend, children, doctor, nurse, rehab team, Facebook group. By talking about how you feel people will be understanding and helpful. You may be surprised to hear that they may have gone through something similar and can offer a lot of advice and support. Sometimes they don't have to say anything, just being an ear to listen to you may be enough.
  • See a psychologist. Often the impartial, stranger's ear may be the best forgetting everything off your chest (literally)
  • Use exercise as a source of stress and anxiety relief. Walking can be great for your mental health. Pop on some of your favourite music which can help to get you going. Even 5-10 minutes will do some good.
  • Avoid too much alcohol or caffeine. Both are ok in small amounts but caffeine will increase anxiety and feelings of stress and alcohol is a depressent that will make you feel better for a few hours and much much worse afterwards.
  • Try mindfulness and meditation - I've put a list together below of good Apps that you can download on your phone for free that can help you to unwind, relax and even help you get to sleep. Simply search on your App store on your phone for the names below. If you don't have a smartphone, you can order meditation CDs from Amazon like this one.

1. Sleep Easily Meditation

This app a 25-minute guided meditation that combines soothing music with talking you through the relaxation process. The female voice is surprisingly calming – I was out for the count within 10 minutes.

2. Calm – meditation and relaxation

This simple to use app presents the 7 Steps of Calm. There are seven guided sessions running from 2-20 minutes with a range of background scenes and sounds to choose from (think beaches, meadows and pouring rain).

Free for iphone and ipad

3. Simply Being Guided Meditation

Good for beginners, this easy-to-use app talks you through the basic skills in sessions ranging from 5-20 minutes. Choose your sound preference –the likes of ocean, rain and stream – and sit back and relax. It comes loaded with meditation tips too.

Available for iPhone, iPad and Android

4. Headspace: Guided Meditation

Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk aiming to make meditation accessible. He delivers the directed 10-minute sessions in his relaxed style - no hippy talk here, he strips it down to basics and throws in the odd joke.

http://www.getsomeheadspace.com

Free (upgrades offered too)

5. Room to Breathe Meditation

Nailing your breathing is key in helping you keep calm and switch off. This app can help anyone who has had problems meditating. There’s a step-by-step-guide to breathing techniques with music options to choose from too.

Available on iPad, iPhone and Android

6. Relax Melodies

Want to learn the art of power napping but can’t switch off? This app can help. Choose from a library of relaxing tracks. There’s a timer and alarm function to stop the nap becoming a deeper sleep.

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Motivation is the key to success

This week's post is a guest post, from Holly Barry, who has written a great piece for us all about motivation, especially when sticking to those New Years goals.
 

MOTIVATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

New Year always grants us with new resolutions which primarily focus on shifting that winter weight. But, a healthy lifestyle offers so much more than weight loss. By feeling rejuvenated, you will feel more inclined to persevere with the gym or exercise you have chosen, and stick to eating those colourful foods which will be sure to boost your general health, mental health, appearance and self-esteem. Here are some reasons to adopt healthy habits to help get you motivated for making small, healthy changes.

1: Eat better = feel better

Adopting some simple lifestyle changes in terms of what we eat and how much exercise we take can have a really positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Our diet and activity levels can affect muscle strength, coordination, stamina and concentration levels, and even simple changes can have a dramatic effect.

Cutting down on sugary snacks and foods that are high in processed fats is a simple way to improve your diet. Going cold turkey is unlikely to be successful over the longer term, so instead, try to replace sweet treats with nuts and fruit, and try to adopt an 80/20 approach to what you eat. If 80% of your food intake is healthy, there’s room in the remaining 20% for the occasional sweet treat or indulgence.

It pays to approach exercise in a gentle way too, gradually building up the length of time you spend exercising and the intensity of the exercise itself. That way, you build your strength up and stay motivated.

2: Looking after your heart health

Making a resolution to lose weight and eat more healthily will have an impact on your overall health, particularly your heart. Maintaining an optimum body weight and taking regular exercise can both help reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease.

The British Heart Foundation and the NHS recommend that adults try to achieve 150 active minutes a week, which is less than 25 minutes a day. For time to count as ‘active’, your activity needs to warm you up and make you feel a little out of breath. You don’t have to sign up for a gym membership though, as simple things like brisk walking, dancing or exercising at home can all count towards that target of 150 minutes of activity.

As winter is the busiest time for the NHS, with resources stretched to the limit, there’s even more of an incentive at this time of the year to get fit and stay healthy.

3: Healthier Skin

Our skin is perhaps the most visible sign of Christmas over-indulgence and harsh winter weather. If you want your skin to look fresh and healthy, you need to pay attention to the foods you eat, as healthy eating can provide long-lasting benefits. All that processed food you ate over Christmas means that your skin has been starved of the minerals and nutrients it really needs. Crash diets won’t help restore your skin’s vitality, as they rarely offer a balanced intake of nutrients. Instead, concentrate on eating your five-a-day, making sure you get plenty of food that is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries and tomatoes.

Healthy skin also needs plenty of moisture, as without it, skin will quickly look dry, pale and taut. Ensure you drink lots of fresh water, and try to avoid sugary, fizzy drinks and alcohol. Keeping a bottle of mineral water with you at all times is a great way to stay hydrated throughout the day.


Healthy eating and regular exercise play such a vital role in keeping us in shape, both mentally and physically. We literally are what we eat, and bad habits can have an effect on our entire bodies inside and out. Trying to eat well and exercise regularly is more than just a New Year’s resolution - it’s a lifestyle change that we should all strive for, and one that will repay us every day for the rest of our lives.

4: Shiny Hair

We all know only too well how much damage the winter months can do to our skin, but we often forget about our hair at this time of year. Hair can suffer just as much during the winter - whether from lack of nutrition caused by poor diets over the festive season, or from cold, wet weather and the effects of constant central heating.

There are plenty of things you can do though, to boost your hair’s health. Healthy eating can play a vital role in helping you achieve great-looking hair, with some foods providing essential nutrients and minerals to really strengthen your hair and make it shine. By identifying which foods can boost hair health, you can easily incorporate them into your healthy eating regime, for visible and long-lasting benefits.

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Oranges vs OJ

Good morning and Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Did you manage to fit in some exercise? How was your motivation in the cold temperatures?

Speaking of cold, now that the temperature has dropped a few degrees, it will be important to try to avoid winter colds.  A lot of people reach for orange juice to boost their Vitamin C intake.  However drinking juice is not necessarily the best way of increasing your Vitamin C.
 
Instead, increase your fluid intake, eat more vegetables that are high in Vitamin C (particularly red peppers, kale and broccoli) and sleep more to help prevent colds.
 
Fruit juice is often in debate about whether it is healthy or not, especially for those trying to lose weight.  If you want to lose weight or are struggling to keep consistent weight loss, the best advice I can give you is to avoid fruit juice.  Fruit juices are high-carbohydrate and high-sugar. Even though they’re “good for you” there are better sources of nutrients with much less sugar (or none at all).  Eat fruit and vegetables, don’t drink them.  

But why is orange juice not ideal to be having regularly?
 
The key issue is a lack of fibre. When we eat fruit, the fibre forms a protective layer that acts as a barrier to the intestine, slowing down the absorption of sugar. The high sugar content obtained from the digestion of fruit juice can elevate your blood sugar levels, which in turn stimulate your pancreas to produce insulin. The more carbohydrates you eat at once, the higher your insulin levels are likely to increase. For example, your insulin levels will increase more after having a large banana and orange juice compared to after eating an egg and glass of milk, which is much lower in carbohydrate. Having other carbohydrates at the same time, such as a  a slice of bread or cereal, can also further increase your insulin levels.  If this blood sugar is not used for activity/body function, it may get stored as fat to use 'later'.  If you are very active or not trying to lose weight, this is not generally a problem as you are using the energy that you are consuming.

Oranges themselves are an excellent source of vitamin C, just one large orange contains a full day’s dose. Vitamin C is critical for producing white blood cells and antibodies that fight off infections; it’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from free-radical damage and plays a key role in producing skin-firming collagen.

Oranges are also high in fiber and folate.  They contain on average:

60 calories for one, 12.5g of sugar, 3.1g fibre
116% of your recommended intake of Vitamin C.

Compare this to orange juice:
 
250ml: 125 calories, 25g of sugar, 0.6g of fibre
200% of your daily recommendation of Vitamin C.
 
Compare this to 1 slice of wholemeal bread (which people often cut out to try to reduce carbs):
 
80 calories, 15g of carbohydrates, 1.5g sugar, 2g of fibre

Please do ask me any questions at all if you want to know more.

Have a 

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Just how important is diet and exercise to improve your heart?

Good morning and Happy Wednesday! I hope you've had a great week so far. We've had a busy week here at Clinical Exercise - lots of new enquiries, lots of fab chat over on our Healthy Hearties Facebook group, a HUGE batch cooking session on Monday (fish pie, fish chowder and fish cakes - yes a lot of fish this week!) and an old client has returned from overseas and is getting restarted on his exercise programme.

This week I'm talking all about Heart Health - obviously I'm always talking about heart health but I wanted to really focus on what you can do to ensure you are reducing your risk of having future heart problems.  This is particularly relevant if you have a history of heart problems in the family or if you are recovering from a heart event or currently have a heart condition.

There are so many do's and don'ts to look after your heart - below are the top 5 things you should be doing to ensure your heart is in tip top condition.

Also, this week I have a simple exercise that you can do any time of day to tone up the back of your arms - easy!

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Looking after your heart

Cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is the world’s biggest killer, causing over 17 million deaths a year and many of these deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.

Most people know someone or have themselves been directly affected by heart disease and a lot of times it is avoidable by changing lifestyle habits. If you've had heart problems in the past it's never to late to make improvements to improve your health for the future.

Simple changes in diet by reducing your salt intake and eliminating processed foods from your diet and trying to get a couple of hours of exercise a day can make a huge difference.
 
A healthy diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and prevents weight gain which puts pressure on your heart, the introduction of a healthy diet also helps to prevent further worsening of existing heart disease and it’s not too late to start eating healthily.
 
To help prevent heart disease here are five ways to change your lifestyle and take better care of your heart.

1. Follow the Mediterranean diet

A 2013 study showed the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 30% and prevents weight gain which puts pressure on your heart, the diet also helps to prevent further worsening of existing heart disease and it’s NEVER too late to start eating healthily. Recent attention has been drawn to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet by cardiologist Aseem Malhotra who has recently filmed the ‘Cereal Killers Movie’ about his quest to find out the secret to a long life in the Mediterranean. Check it out here.

2.  Reduce salt
 
Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Reduce your consumption of crisps, take aways, packaged snack foods and processed sauces. As a cardiac nurse this is one of the biggest misconceptions people have – they think if they don’t add salt to their food then their diet is low in salt.  However salt is hidden in so many things you wouldn’t even think – cans of tuna, ham, tomato paste and roasted peanuts.  Always check the label – if a serving size contains more than 10% of your daily recommended intake, avoid or reduce the amount you have.

3.  Say no to processed foods
 
There are lots of hidden saturated fats, sugars and salts in processed food, fast food and ready meals.  Even foods that may appear ‘healthy’ traditional meals such as lasagne are usually made with cheap ingredients and are laden with salt. I would strongly advise people to check the content of the ingredients of any food they buy and start cooking from scratch together – it’s more fun too!

4.  Quit smoking
 
Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have heart disease with all the health issues it causes it is the most important thing you can do for your heart. Try a nicotine replacement to reduce your cravings – electronic cigarettes, patches, gum or lozenges are a great help when you’re quitting.

5.  Exercise more

The heart is the most important muscle and just a small amount of exercise will keep it functioning properly. Exercising for as little as ten minutes a day can make a huge difference. If you haven’t exercised for some time start out with gentle walking and build up – we should be aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

Aim to improve in one of the above areas each week and you’ll soon be on your way to a healthy heart.

Let me know if you have any specific questions at all!

Exercise of the week - Tricep Dips


1.  Sit up straight on the long edge of a stable, heavy chair or a bench. Your legs should be slightly extended, with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Place your hands on both sides of the bench just outside your thighs. Your palms should be down, fingertips pointing towards the floor.
3. Without moving your legs, bring your bottom forward off the bench.
4. Steadily lower yourself. Beginners: Bend your elbows 1-2 inches and push yourself back up. Advanced: When your elbows form 90˚ angles, push yourself back up to starting position.
5. Repeat up to 10 reps, rest and then repeat up to 2-3 times.

Some people find that this exercise is too much on their wrist joints. If so, you may need to change the exercise to triceps kickbacks, which we will cover in the next couple of weeks.

Do let me know if you have any questions at all!

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Exercising safely with a heart condition

I can't believe it's the end of January already. How did the first month go for you? Did you have a look at setting some goals (not NY resolutions, but long term goals for the whole year)? Even if it feels like your goals are so far away from where you are right now, you'll be surprised how much you will achieve over the course of a year.

Some ideas for goals are:

  • Double the distance that I can currently walk in 3 months eg if you can walk 5000 steps per day without feeling too tired, aim to be doing 10000 in 3 months time.
  • Go down 1-2 belt notches in 2 months time.
  • Do my 15 minute exercise routine at home every day.
  • Stop using technology in bed so that my sleep improves.
  • Eat more vegetables with every meal.
  • Say no to sugary desserts 9 times out of 10 (you're allowed some treats every now and then!).

What are your goals?

Don't forget to join my Health Hearties Facebook group here - we now have over 160 members who give helpful tips and advice about all things heart related including exercise, medications, diet and more. Come join us!

Heart tip of the week

There is almost no disease that exercise doesn't benefit from regular exercise. As such, if you've had a heart attack, have heart failure, an arrhythmia or other heart disease, doesn't mean that you can't do regular exercise (even if you don't feel like it right now!). In fact, with regular exercise (greater than 150 minutes a week), you can improve your recovery, improve heart function and even get off of some of the medications you're on.

Cardiovascular benefits of exercise include:

  • Strengthening your heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improving your circulation and helping your body use oxygen better
  • Improving heart failure symptoms
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cholesterol levels

Make sure that you get the "OK" and some guidelines from your doctor before you start.

Important things to know about exercising with a heart condition

  • Avoid isometric exercises such as pushups and sit-ups. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object and often causes you to hold your breath, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Avoid exercises that involve pushing heavy weights above your heard eg shoulder press. This causes an increase in thoracic pressure and can increase your blood pressure.
  • Don't exercise outdoors when it is extremely cold, hot or humid without checking with your doctor first. High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly and become dehydrated. Extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult and cause chest pain. Better choices are indoor activities such as a circuit or using a treadmill.

  • Make sure you stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, aiming for around 500ml per hour of exercise. But, be careful not to drink too much water if you have heart failure - check with your doctor if you should be limiting the amount you drink.

  • If your exercise program has been interrupted for more than a few days (for example, due to illness, holiday or bad weather), make sure you ease back into the routine. Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you are back where you started.

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Precautions

  • Do not exercise if you are not feeling well or were very recently ill. You should wait a few days after all symptoms disappear before restarting the exercise program. If uncertain, check with your doctor first.
  • Don't exercise if you have very high blood pressure - it needs to be under control/treated first.
  • Don't exercise if you have unstable angina or are waiting for test results or treatment.
  • Reduce the intensity of the exercise, slow down or stop and rest if you become overly fatigued or short of breath. Discuss the symptoms with your doctor if they have become worse than previously.
  • If you have persistent shortness of breath, rest and call your doctor. The doctor may make changes in medications, diet or fluid restrictions.
  • Slow down or stop the exercise if you develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Check your pulse after you have rested for 15 minutes. If it remains above 120 beats per minute at rest, call your doctor. If you have an arrhythmia, it is safe to exercise however aim to work at an intensity just below where you start to feel breathless.
  • If you experience pain, don't ignore it. If you have chest pain or pain anywhere else in the body, slow down and then stop the exercise. If you have a GTN spray, use it and wait 5 mins. If the pain subsides, you can resume the exercise if you feel able. If the chest pain continues, take up to 3 doses of GTN spray and if chest pain persists call an ambulance.

Exercises to include

  • Walking - build it up gradually. Get a step counter/activity tracker to keep track of how much you are doing so that you can see an improvement. Aim to add around 10% extra each week. E.g if you currently can do 2500 steps per day, aim for 2750 per day next week. Here is an easy step counter you can use, or use the free app on your iphone, or if you want something more high tech, the new Fitbit looks good: check it out here.
  • Create an indoor circuit. Aim to do each exercise for 30 seconds. To make things easier, start by doing the exercises seated. To make them harder, add in hand weights (use food cans to begin with and then you could buy a set of small weights, these ones are good). Choose from:
    • Marching on the spot
    • Heel raises
    • Sit to stand or squat
    • Bicep curl
    • Arm raises out to the side
    • High knees
    • Wall press up
    • Tricep kickbacks
  • See if there is a phase 4 cardiac rehab class in your area that you can join in. Search for one here: http://phase-4.cardiac-rehabilitation.net/

Let me know if you have any questions at all!

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Heart healthy snack ideas

Good morning and Happy Tuesday! I hope you had a great weekend and are looking forward to a great week ahead.  The fact that it is nearly the end of January already is a good sign that we've breezed past the 'hump' of Winter and things are on the way up (hopefully!).

I've decided this week to have a word of the week – food related of course! This week I have chosen:

Oyster {oi-ster}
-       Noun
 
any edible marine bivalve mollusc of the genus Ostrea, having a rough irregularly shaped shell and occurring on the sea bed, mostly in coastal waters
 
or:

something from which advantage, delight, profit, etc. may be derived eg. the world is my oyster
 
Be happy with who you are, be able to and have a desire to spend time with yourself from time to time, and realise the freedom to make choices in your life.  Be the driver, not a passenger.  The world is your oyster, too. 

I've been thinking of some healthy heart snacks to recommend, as it's those mid afternoon and post dinner times when a lot of people struggle with staying 'healthy'. Having a healthy snack on hand when you are out and about or ready to go in the cupboard for after dinner will help to stop you reaching for the 'naughty' options.

One fantastic snack is nuts - they are healthy, easy to transport and can last for ages in the bottom of your bag until you need them (unlike fruit which you regret if it's been in there more than 2 days!).

So this week's 'Food of the Week' is a nut – the almond. Let me know if you are allergic to almonds and I can let you know some other good sources of the same nutrients.
 
A lot of people love nuts, but worry that they're too high in fat to make them a regular snack. Think again.  A handful of almonds is the perfect superfood to keep you going through the morning - or afternoon, and are great for you in moderation.  

Avoid salted or roasted almonds and opt instead for the au naturel version which have no salt or added oil, otherwise you may defeat the purpose of having a healthy food!

Here are some other health benefits of almonds:

•  Almonds are high in monounsaturated fat which is classed as a 'healthy fat', does not lead to raised cholesterol and can in moderation actually aid weight loss.

•  Almonds are a good source of the antioxidant Vitamin E, which is good for your heart and skin by preventing free radical damage to the cells.  23 almonds provide 60% of your daily recommended Vitamin E

•  Compared with other nuts, almonds contain the highest levels of some key nutrients – magnesium, protein, potassium and copper 

•  Almonds contain more calcium and fibre than any other nut

•  It has been shown that diabetics should also reach for almonds as eating them can help lower blood sugar levels and insulin after meals.

A portion of 23 almonds (one ounce/28g) contains around 163 calories, so why not combine it with an apple for the perfectly balanced and filling snack that is low in calories?  Your body will use all of the vitamins and minerals in these calories, the fibre in the nuts will take energy to break down and the protein will keep you feeling full until your next meal.

Here are some other healthy heart snack ideas for you to try:

  • Low fat cottage cheese on 2 x ryvita
  • 1 piece of fruit
  • 3-4 oatcakes with peanut butter (no added sugar/salt)
  • 150g or small tub of natural yoghurt with fresh or frozen blueberries
  • Hummus with cucumber, peppers or carrot sticks
  • Tub of edamame beans
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Cooked chicken pieces (100g)
  • Small pack of sushi
  • ‘Bounce’ ball – from health food shops

Let me know if you have any other favourite healthy snacks that we can add to the list.

Until next time...

Angela

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Beating Blue Monday

First the bad news. Today is 'Blue Monday', apparently the most depressing day of 2017.  The worst day to start a new job, tackle the world's problems or do anything other than crawl under the duvet and wait for it all to pass (sounds like a few Mondays to me!).

The reason?  A much-hyped - and much ridiculed - formula dreamt up at Cardiff University just before the recession.

Pity it's today as today is actually my birthday! So I personally feel pretty good. Although my 'day out' today consists of a check up and hygiene visit at the dentist - wish me luck!

Psychologist Cliff Arnall calculated that the third Monday of January represents the peak of post-Christmas gloom.  Factors included bad weather, Christmas debts due, the removal of Christmas lights, failing our new year's resolutions, low motivation levels and the need to take action.

But don't despair.  There are many things that can pick us all up and help to improve our outlook for the year:

  • Play in the snow (if you have any near you) – just because we're not kids doesn't mean we can't act like them.  Throw a snowball at someone – trust me, this will cheer you up!
  • Call someone you have been meaning to for a while – this may be an old friend, family member or your neighbour.  Talking to an old buddy will help you to think about the good times.
  • Foods to eat to battle the blues include brazil nuts, peas, liver, sardines, chillies, high-fibre cereals, bananas, and even chocolate! Dark chocolate is especially effective. Drink water, not alcohol, as alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel worse.

Often after a heart event you can feel down, anxious, worried about the future and a bit 'stuck' about what to do next.

The key thing is to take each day one at a time, don't let things overwhelm you. Now is the time to take a 'break' from any stressful tasks/events/things you've signed up for. Save your energy to focus on healing, looking after your health and moving forward one step at a time. Deep breathing, healthy eating and getting small amounts of exercise and fresh air each day can help to lift your mood.

Keep a diary with how you are feeling each day, along with what you have achieved, no matter how big or small. 'Walking to the front gate' can be a good starting point; before you know it you'll be able to walk around the block, a few miles and who knows what else.

Let me know if you need extra support. Here is a great story to check out with some tips and advice:

https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/my-story/richard-gale

Let me know if you have any questions at all.

Speak soon,

Angela

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Vitamin D, why it's important and how to get more

As it's now the second week of January we can now start thinking about our health again, which may or may not have slipped your mind during the Christmas fun.

It would be great to have some suggestions for healthy heart newsletter topics this year – what would you like to know more about?

It was a very mild Christmas this year, which I was happy about as it meant getting out for lots of walks without my toes freezing! While the sun was out, it was only for a few hours each day so it made me think about how to get enough vitamin D, which we mostly get from sun exposure.

Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

These nutrients are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities and bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition called osteomalacia in adults.

Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need by eating a healthy balanced diet and by getting some summer sun but it is always a good idea to eat foods that also contain Vitamin D to ensure you are getting enough.

Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods. Good food sources are:

  • oily fish, such as salmon and sardines (canned salmon has a lot if you mash up and eat the bones - trust me, you can't taste them!)
  • eggs
  • mushrooms (ones grown in sulight eg potabello)
  • milk from cows that are exposed to the sun

Let me know all about your big plans for 2017 – big and small!

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Why you SHOULDN'T make New Year resolutions

Happy New Year! You know what that means - New Year resolutions.  Last night at the gym it was full of new members – starting the year with the greatest of intentions. Have you started this year with a bang?
 
Briefly scan social media newsfeed and you’ll see articles and advertisements for detoxes and cleanses and “Lose fat fast!” promotions. Look at the cover of most magazines and you’ll see plenty of ways promising fast fat loss and a flat stomach in a matter of days.
 
Walk through a pharmacy or an aisle with vitamins and supplements and you’ll notice plenty of “kits” for detoxing and jump starting your health and fitness regimen.  And the temptation is real - who isn’t tempted by the promises of quick, drastic, noticeable results? Who would rather lose 5 kilos in a couple of months than in only a couple short weeks?
 
Regardless of the promises, I still encourage people to avoid detoxes, cleanses, and other drastic approaches this New Year.
As explained in the article What Happens in Your Body During a “Cleanse or “Detox”, a cleanse or detox is not some miracle that will flush out toxins from your body and instantly skyrocket your health. An investigation performed by Sense about Science in 2009 examined 15 commercial detox products and not a single one could name specific toxins, agree on a definition of what a detox really is, or provide evidence for their claims.
 
Nutrition and health is about the big picture. What you do for five or seven days out of the year is pretty inconsequential. That’s 1.3% of the year.
 
Rather than worry about ‘detoxing,’ people are better off thinking about eating nutritious, health-promoting foods on a daily basis. Think leafy greens, beans, whole fruit, nuts, and seeds. The idea that six months of unhealthy eating can somehow be remedied by drinking nothing but green juice for 72 hours is flawed.  Don’t buy into the (unproven and sometimes expensive) promise that a detox or cleanse will make you healthier. It’s not about what you do one or two weeks out of the year – it’s about the BIG picture of what you do the majority of the time.

Sure, you can lose a noticeable amount of weight (not necessarily fat) with a cleanse or detox, but as soon as you return back to normal eating habits, you’ll regain all that weight back.  Losing weight only to keep it off for a very short period of time is not a success.
 
Some detoxes and cleanses claim to help you “jump start” your health and fitness regimen, but I don’t think they help you achieve long-lasting results. Too many people try strict diets, detoxes, cleanses, and other gimmicksyear after year but never find something that sticks. This leads to diet-hopping and constantly searching for a miracle that just doesn’t exist.
 
While I don’t recommend things like elimination diets or detoxes, you can create a sane and simple 30 day challenge to jump start your New Year. But, please, pay particular attention to the sane and simple part.
 
Below I have put some 30 days challenges you may consider instead in January, which are more realistic and healthy to strive towards. After the 30 days are up - why not try a different one?

Some ideas to try every day for 30 days:
 

•   Be physically active every day. You don’t need to do anything drastic – just do something every day for 30 days. You may do resistance training twice each week and then go for a walk for 10-30 minutes on the days you don’t strength train. Or you can engage in a fun physical activity like a dance class. It doesn’t matter – just do something active every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

•   Eat fruits and veggies every day. What’s better than detoxing for seven days with fruit and veggie juices? Eating fruits and veggies every day of the year. You can start simple by including a piece of fruit with breakfast and a veggie at lunch. Doesn’t matter how you do it – just do it daily.

•   Give up one naughty treat. Try swapping your afternoon chocolate for a handful of nuts or a couple of satsumas. By breaking the habit of ‘needing’ something sweet in the afternoon you will find that you actually function better with some healthy fats that are good for brain function. I’ve given up chocolate for 30 days. It means that I have a great excuse to say no rather than, ‘ok, why not’.

•   Drink more water. You’ve heard this from me a lot. Drink more. You will feel better, function better and crave less sugar. Check with me or your doctor if you have any heart, kidney or blood pressure issues before upping your water.

•   Change ONE thing at a time. This way you can focus completely on that one thing, and you can do it daily until it becomes a habit. Admittedly forming this new habit may be challenging at first, but after a while, it will come naturally.  THEN, after that becomes a habit, add something else to the mix.
 
Your goal should be to get the results you want, and maintain them long-term. To ensure that happens, keep things sane and simple so you develop sustainable long-term habits.
 
Your goals must stick to three simple S’s:
•   Sane
•   Simple
•   Sustainable


Let me know if you need more help setting or achieving your goals in 2017. I’d love to help!


Have  great week and speak soon.

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How to sleep more at the busiest time of year

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I hope you had a fabulous weekend and enjoyed your Christmas. Did you receive health related things this year - Fitbit etc? Let me know what you got - I love hearing about new gadgets, cookbooks etc.

This week I wanted to check in and see how things are going. Other than feeling excited/relieved/exhausted that Christmas is over.  Specifically, I wanted to know how I could help you out with 2017 just around the corner. What kind of goals are you working on for yourself or for others? Any struggles or challenges you're having that I might be able to help with? What kind of things would you want to learn more about, or stuff you'd love to see me cover?

Just reply back to this email and let me know. Seriously, I check them all.

I thought this week I would write about the importance of sleep, as it may be something that doesn't happen as much during the festive season.  Late nights/parties combined with normal life having to continue means sleep is one area that takes a back seat.  However quality sleep is vital to our health, our well-being and our performance both during exercise and at work/home. 
 
Sleep is also quality recovery. It is essential that people who are exercising regularly or have recently undergone surgery or treatment maximise the recovery process. Poor quality and quantity of sleep will compromise tissue regeneration, decrease effective cognitive processing (thinking), increase fatigue and pre-dispose you to injury.  
 
The amount of sleep needed has been said to be between 7 and 9 hours per night.  However, the amount needed varies from person to person and some people have been known to perform well on less than 6 hours per night (Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Leonardo da Vinci).
 
It is better to go by how you feel and whether you feel like you are getting enough sleep.  If you have any of the following sleep signs and symptoms you may need to address your sleeping habits:
 
•   Waking up groggy, difficulty in getting out of bed
•   Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
•   Broken and restless sleep
•   Waking up thinking of tasks to do

If you are interested, take the following test to see what your 'sleep score' is:
 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/profiler/
 
Some simple tips for healthy sleep habits:

  • Your bedroom should be for sleep only - avoid televisions and computers near your bed as having these on means your brain takes longer to relax.
  • Simple breathing exercises can help you to unwind. Breathe into your abdomen, not your chest, through your nose for three seconds, and then breathe out for three seconds. Pause for three seconds before breathing in again. Practice this for five to ten minutes at night.
  • Avoid caffeine after 4pm (earlier if you are very sensitive).
  • Talk about your day and write a list of things to do for tomorrow so that you don’t have busy thoughts running through your mind during the night.
  • Put some drops of lavender on your pillow, which has been shown to help make you sleepy.
  • Some people find that valerian tea/herbal tablets can help you to drop off (check that valerian doesn't interact with your medications).
  • Avoid alcohol: alcohol can help you to drop off, but can then make you restless.  Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it encourages you to get up more to pass water.  Alcohol is also more likely to lead to snoring, which can restrict airflow into the lungs. This reduces oxygen in your blood, which disturbs your sleep and contributes to your hangover.
  • Keep your bedroom cool as being too warm will disrupt your sleep. Avoid having the heating on all night as this will also dry out your skin.
  • If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, or if you always feel tired the next day, you might have a sleep disorder.  Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively so talk to your GP about your concerns. 

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