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Men’s Health

In November each year, the Movember charity challenges men to grow a moustache for month, to help change the face of men’s health. In this week’s article we will take a closer look at Heart disease, which, despite affecting both men and women, is considerably more common in men. To make matters worse, men are more likely to smoke, and twice as likely as women to drink too much. Men’s bodies also react differently to stress than women’s, and they are less likely than women to seek support or medical attention.
The tendency to develop heart disease is genetic and tends to increase with age. However there are also many other risk factors which can be controlled in order to reduce the risks. Smoking is a major risk factor, and smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers. Therefore, giving up smoking is the single most effective means of reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.

High cholesterol is another recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease. If there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it can adhere to the inner lining of the blood vessels and cause them to become narrow and hardened. If a blood vessel supplying the heart muscle becomes blocked completely, this results in a heart attack, which causes damage to the heart muscle.

Being overweight and having high blood pressure both mean that the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. This extra pressure can cause wear and tear on both the heart and blood vessels. Stress also raises blood pressure and increases heart rate, putting greater pressure on the heart and blood vessels. In addition, stress often causes people to engage in more activities which can damage the heart and blood vessels, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, eating the wrong foods, and being inactive.

The best ways of  reducing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease getting enough exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day helps to reduce blood pressure and stress levels, prevents obesity and diabetes, and strenghtens the heart and circulation, thus preventing heart disease and strokes. It is best to try and choose activities you enjoy in order to to keep you motivated; such as brisk wallking, sporting activities, swimming, dancing, or gardening.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which contain antioxidants that help to prevent damage to the heart and blood vessels. Wholegrain cereals such as oats help to control cholesterol levels, while olive oil and oily fish help to prevent blood clots. Choose lean meat and skinless chicken instead of fatty meats. 2-3 squares of good quality dark chocolate and a daily glass of red wine have been shown to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Avoid animal fats as much as possible; and especially trans-fats, which are found in some margarines and many processed foods. It is also important to try to reduce consumption of salt, alcohol and coffee, all of which raise blood pressure if consumed in excess.

One of the best remedies available for the heart and circulation is hawthorn.  Modern research has confirmed that hawthorn contains powerful antioxidants called flavonoids, and clinical trials support its use for this purpose.  It strengthens the heart, helping it to beat more steadily and with greater efficiency.  It also improves the blood flow to the heart muscle itself, which helps to relieve angina. Hawthorn is beneficial to the entire circulatory system.  It increases the integrity of the tissues, softens arteries that have been hardened by high cholesterol levels, relaxes blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and removes accumulated fluid from the body.  These actions help to reduce the risk of heart disease.Medical herbalists frequently use hawthorn in combination with other herbs for a range of problems affecting the heart and circulatory system.  In some cases herbs such as these may be used to reduce the dose of orthodox medicines in consultation with the individual’s GP.