We're all a little guilty of taking our hearts for granted, but how can we help keep this vital organ ticking along?
This World Heart Day, health journalist Sarah Graham looks at nine simple, everyday changes you can make to boost the health of your heart.
With World Heart Day around the corner, what easy health tips can you follow to keep your heart beating strongly and stave off heart disease – especially as living a healthy lifestyle can also improve your life insurance premiums? Sarah Graham (@SarahGraham7) finds out what hinders heart health, and what improves it.
Meditation, breathing and relaxation exercises can all help your mindfulness and, in turn, reduce your stress.
‘Mindfulness is a simple technique to help maintain harmony between your mind and body,’ says David. ‘The aim is to take control of your mind so you become calmer and more balanced.’
Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, by putting aside time to meditate or practicing breathing exercises.
Family tree research isn’t just for celebrities on BBC television programmes; knowing your family history can help you understand your risk of heart disease, too.
Whoever is in your gene pool, you should keep a closer eye on your weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) – and get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly.
‘If you're carrying excess weight, or if your cholesterol level or blood pressure is elevated, you are significantly more at risk of coronary heart disease,’ Julie explains. An NHS health check, available free from your GP if you're over 40, will measure these indicators.
Alternatively, DNA testing kits can now be ordered online. We asked the experts whether your DNA could actually tell you something about your future health.
If you're a smoker, giving up is the best thing you can do for your heart, says Linda Main, dietetic adviser at charity Heart UK (@HeartUKcharity).
‘Smoking cigarettes can reduce your good cholesterol, and make your bad cholesterol more likely to stick to the inside of your arteries,’ says Dr Jerome Ment, of BMI Healthcare (@BMIHealthcare). With Stoptober just around the corner, now could be the perfect time to quit.
BMI The Priory Hospital in Birmingham, meanwhile, recommends ‘removing temptations by throwing away cigarettes and telling your friends you are quitting.’
Smoking can increase your life insurance premiums, another reason to consider quitting. You can also contact the Stop Smoking Hotline on 0300 123 1044 for advice.
Read why smoking can increase your life insurance premiums in our article.
‘Eating excess salt gives you high blood pressure, so you really need to cut back on it,’ says Julie. ‘You don't even need to have any salt in the house. We consume enough salt every day in the food that we eat, so there's no need to add it to your cooking.’
If getting rid of salt entirely would be too much of a challenge, try an alternative like low sodium salts.
With around seven million people currently living with cardiovascular disease in the UK, it's more important than ever to start future proofing your heart with these simple lifestyle changes.
 British Heart Foundation, How does stress affect the heart? https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/health-and-emotional-support/stress