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heart health

A healthy heart is a long-term investment.

According to Irishheart.ie, the nation’s heart and stroke charity, 'cardiovascular disease kills nearly 9,000 in people in Ireland every year, despite an estimated 80% of premature CVD being preventable.'

‘Cardiovascular disease includes all diseases of the heart and circulation but most commonly it refers to coronary heart disease (angina, heart attack), stroke and other blood vessel diseases.'

This number is unnecessarily high. With the support and research carried out by organisations like Irish Heart, there is no reason not to be educated and take active steps to ensure your heart’s health, for your future. We have compiled some of our top tips for ways to look after your heart every day. These small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.


Having a high BMI can increase your chances of experiencing diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all risk factors in heart disease. Excess weight around the stomach is especially dangerous. Not being active on a regular basis increases your risk of stroke by 50%, according to Irish Heart.

Heart Ireland have created the Slí na Sláinte programme, which encourages people to walk more and get more health benefits from their walking. The programme brings together groups of people interested in getting more exercise for the sake of their health and maps out walking routes, creates community and sets challenges for members, making getting healthy a sociable and accessible activity.

Quit smoking

Obvious, but difficult. The effects of smoking on your body can lead to lung disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. The build-up of plaque and hardened arteries puts the heart under increased pressure, raising chances of experiencing hypertension causing a stroke.

If the first try didn’t work out, there’s nothing to stop you from trying again – most people’s first tries at this don’t stick. Try gradually cutting down, reducing your intake every few days, rather than quitting entirely cold turkey at the get-go.

Get a good night’s sleep

Adults require 7-9 hours of quality sleep in order to keep their bodies functioning as efficiently as possible.

Good sleep refreshes the body’s cells. Not getting enough sleep could be due to stress factors in your life or a poor diet. Check out our article here on how to get a good night’s sleep.

Reduce stress

Easier said than done, right?

It’s not so much about reducing stresses in your life – because if there was a way to do that, we’d all be doing it. It’s much more so about how you handle the stress in your life. Constantly battling anxiety about every misstep and misfortune that comes your way is not sustainable.

Stress takes a physical toll on your body as well as mental. We can come to lean on unhealthy crutches as coping mechanisms, such as food or alcohol. Instead, try to make room in your life for safer, healthier options for reducing stress. Yoga, meditations and exercise all release stress-reducing hormones and when practised regularly, can drastically reduce our panicked reaction at the first signs of stress.


We cannot over-emphasise the importance of a high water intake for your overall health. Dehydration thickens the blood meaning the heart has to work that bit harder to pump it throughout your body.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight, so dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or heat stroke

Upping your water intake to the recommended 11 cups (2.7 litres) for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) for men can make all the difference!


Your dietary choices affect blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High blood pressure causes your blood vessels to lose their elasticity. The stiffening and narrowing of arteries can result in a blockage or clot forming. There are two main types of cholesterol – HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol mops up the cholesterol left behind in your arteries and carries it to the liver where it is broken down. Bad cholesterol sticks to the walls in your arteries making them narrow.

A diet high in salt increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Eating foods high in saturated fats (butter, hard margarine, lard, cream, fatty meat, cakes, biscuits and chocolates) can raise your cholesterol levels.

So cut back a little on the salt on your dinner. Check the level of salt and fat in some of your regular go-tos and see if you can switch them out for something with slightly lower levels. Our diets have become so saturated with salt that we need an unnecessary amount to ‘really taste it’. In reality, our taste buds have just gotten used to that level, so a normal amount of salt tastes bland to us. Reducing will feel bland at first, but eventually your taste buds will adjust, and your heart will thank you for it!

Sources; Irish Heart, Absolute Health, The Heart Foundation


We've always suspected it, but now scientists have confirmed that dog owners are more likely to have better cardiovascular health.

The research was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings and involved 1,769 people between 25 to 64-years-old, living in Brno in the Czech Republic.

Each participant had to provide information on their BMI, diet, physical activity levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, if they smoked or not and their fasting blood sugar levels.

42 percent of the candidates owned a pet of some sort, with 24 percent of people owning a dog and 17.9 percent owning another animal.

The American Heart Association heart score system test was used, looking at seven changeable risk factors of heart health.

Dog owners were more likely to exercise, have an ideal diet and blood glucose level than those who didn't, but they were more likely to smoke for some reason. They still scored better overall for cardiovascular health, however.

The study authors cautioned: "The higher smoking rates among dog ownership attenuates the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health."

Existing evidence links dog ownership to better mental and physical health, so it makes total sense.

Study co-author Andrea Maugeri commented in a statement: "In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level.

"The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level."

Research claims that getting a pooch could be a useful way to boost heart health, and an important way to tackle the prevalence of heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US alone, causing one-in-four deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Senior investigator Francisco Lopez-Jimenez stated that owning dogs has previously been linked to better mental health and feeling less lonely, both of which are assumed to decrease the risk of heart attacks.

One study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, which examined 17 existing papers concluded having a pet could help the symptoms of mental illness.

Philippa Hobson, senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, told Newsweek: "Whether you're a pet-owner or not, physical activity can benefit your heart in lots of different ways.

"Just spending 10 minutes a day walking around the block is good for your heart health," she added,

Who could ever deny that having a pup is good for us?


I must admit that I struggle to get through the day without my regular cup of coffee. I need that cup of joy to help wake me up in the morning, especially with a lengthy commute ahead of me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who turns into an angry little gremlin without my caffeine fix, whether it’s a flat white from my favourite local cafe or a mug of instant coffee at 6 am.

I’m a true coffee addict and pride myself on being just like Lorelai Gilmore. “I need coffee in an IV” has become my new motto since I started working full time.

There are times when I do worry about my daily coffee consumption, but one study has certainly reassured me.

Researchers in Germany have discovered that drinking four cups of coffee a day is actually good for your heart.

The team shared that caffeine helps protect blood vessels.

The study, which was published in PLOS Biology, stated that caffeine boosts the production of the p27 protein that protects and regenerates heart cells.

"Our results indicate a new mode of action for caffeine, one that promotes protection and repair of heart muscle through the action of mitochondrial p27,” said study author, Professor Judith Haendeler.

"These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage,” he added.

There are numerous other benefits when it comes to drinking a Cup of Joe such as boosting cognitive function and protecting against type 2 diabetes.

Experts recommend drinking two to three cups of coffee each day, or if you’re like me then feel free to channel your inner Lorelai Gilmore and drink all the coffee!


We all know that green tea is exceptionally good for the body and soul. 

Enriched with anti-oxidants for clear skin, and metabolism-boosting properties, it's no wonder it's such a popular beverage. 

According to new research, a compound found in green tea has been linked to major heart-healthy benefits.

'Scientists have discovered that a compound found in green tea, currently being studied for its ability to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain in Alzheimer's disease, also breaks up and dissolves potentially dangerous protein plaques found in the blood vessels,' reads the study.

So, while scientists were researching green tea's benefits to brain health, they came across this unforeseen heart benefit too. 

The research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, scientists from the University of Leeds and Lancaster University found that an ingredient in green tea called EGCG can dissolve dangerous arterial plaque, and could actually prevent heart attacks. 

'The health benefits of green tea have been widely promoted and it has been known for some time that EGCG can alter the structures of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease,'  David Middleton, a professor of chemistry at Lancaster University told Bustle.

'Our results show that this intriguing compound might also be effective against the types of plaques which can cause heart attacks and strokes.'

So, we're adding green tea bags to our shopping lists ASAP.


While people who are overweight might enjoy active lifestyles and high levels of fitness, it seems those extra pounds could increase the risk of heart attack, no matter how healthy the person may seem.

A recent study of over half a million people across Europe has debunked the 'fat but fit' myth, after results showed that overweight and obese people had up to a 28 per cent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease, even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels were normal.

Head researcher, Camille Lassale, of University College London, concluded that "there is no such thing as being healthy obese."

"You are at an increased risk of heart disease," she added.

For the study, scientists examined data on 520,000 people in 10 countries from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).

During a follow-up period of 12 years, 7,637 people were found to have encountered issues with heart health.

After comparing this group to 10,000 others in the study, researchers found that people who were overweight but healthy had a 26 per cent increased risk of developing heart disease.

This risk rose to 28 per cent for those with a BMI over 30.

"Even if you are classified as metabolically healthy, (excess weight) was associated with an increased risk of heart disease," Camille said.

"It's another brick in the wall of evidence that being healthy overweight is not true."


A new study has found that a condition known as 'broken heart syndrome' (Takotsubo syndrome) could cause longer-lasting damage than was previously thought.

The syndrome, which can cause temporary heart failure, can be triggered by severe emotional distress such as the death of a loved one or the break-down of a relationship.

Until now, it was believed that the heart made a full recovery following the trauma, however, research from Aberdeen University has suggested that this may not be the case.

Researchers looked at 52 patients with Takotsubo syndrome, using ultrasound and cardiac MRI scans to examine how their hearts were functioning.

The results showed that the condition permanently affected the heart's pumping motion, essentially delaying the twisting and squeezing motions made by the muscle during a heartbeat.

Parts of the heart's muscle were also found to have been replaced by fine scars, which reduce its elasticity and prevent it from contracting properly.

According to the BBC, researchers said the findings may explain why people who suffer from Takotsbo syndrome have similar long-term survival rates to people who have had a heart attack.

Lead researcher, Dr Dana Dawson, said:  "We used to think that people who suffered from takotsubo cardiomyopathy would fully recover, without medical intervention.”

"Here we've shown that this disease has much longer lasting damaging effects on the hearts of those who suffer from it."

Between 3 per cent and 17 percent of people with the syndrome die within five years of diagnosis.

What's more, a massive 90 per cent of sufferers are women and stress is identified as a contributing factor in approximately 70 per cent of cases.

Unfortunately it looks like time can't always mend a broken heart.  


If certain health publications are to be believed, we should all have sworn off cooking with olive oil long ago in favour of coconut, sunflower or other "safer" cooking products.

While olive oil has always been considered a heart-healthy oil when used in salad dressings or as a dip for bread, many foodies wrote off using the oil for cooking as it was believed to develop dangerous toxic compounds when used with high heats.

Now though, new research says olive oil might be a much safer choice than previously thought, and it is actually more resistant to heat than other plant-based oils like sunflower, corn, and soybean. 

"I have found no evidence that high-heat cooking with olive oil is unhealthy," says US clinical nutrition director Rebecca Blake to Prevention magazine. "There's no proof."

All oils (including your beloved coconut oil) will break down, lose nutrients and can even develop harmful compounds when heat is applied. However olive oil is relatively resistant to these changes given its high antioxidant content.

The key when cooking with olive oil is to avoid the "smoke point", i.e. the temperature at which the oil begins to break down. Olive oil has a fairly low smoke point, so you should avoid it when cooking on very high heats eg. when searing or using a wok.

The smoke point for a standard extra virgin olive oil starts at about 190 degrees Celsius, but gets higher for lower quality olive oils.

If you do plan on cooking with high heats, Ms. Blake recommends using corn, soybean, peanut oil or sesame oil, all of which have a high smoke point.


A new study has revealed one of the biggest health risks to adults today, and it's not drinking, smoking or even using a mobile phone.

Nope, it's… sitting.

Apparently an adult's risk of heart disease increases by 14% for every hour spent sitting during an average day.

Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin studied 2,031 adults, tracking their daily activity and taking regular blood samples. All of the adults spent between two and 12 hours per day sitting down, either at work or in front of the television.

The longer spent sitting down each day, the higher the levels of deposits in blood vessels that act as a telltale sign of heart disease.

Even regular gym or aerobic sessions did nothing to counteract the risk, as any increase in fitness was cancelled out by the many hours lacking in physical activity.

So if your job requires you to sit down all day (as many do), how can you help your body to lessen the risks?

"It’s clear that exercise is important to reduce your cardiovascular risk and improve your fitness level," said the study's lead researcher  Dr Jacquelyn Kulkinski.

“The lesson here is that it’s really important to try and move as much as possible in your daily life, for example, take a walk during lunch, pace while talking on the phone, take the stairs instead of the elevator and use a pedometer to track your daily steps… And if you have a sedentary job, don’t go home at night and sit in front of the TV for hours on end.”

Excuse us while we pop out for a quick stroll…