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Just 10 minutes a day will help the heart

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This February, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging people to take just 10 minutes a day during Heart Month to help cut their risk of heart attack and stroke.

Worryingly, there are more than seven million people in the UK living with cardiovascular disease (CVD), and the latest statistics show that lifestyle habits are getting worse.

Less than a third of adults in England are eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and households are buying fewer vegetables per person.

People are not doing enough regular exercise with nearly half of adults saying they never do any moderate physical activity.

In a recent survey, the public told us loud and clear that time, motivation and money are fundamental barriers to a healthy lifestyle, and around 40 per cent people said they were worried about the effect that their current diet and exercise habits have on their health.

But we know that even small, simple changes to everyday habits can make a big difference for heart health, and are achievable by everyone.

It is possible that people who try to drastically overhaul their lifestyle with New Year's resolutions, may fail by February because they try to change too much.

Nearly a fifth of people told us they often set themselves goals for improving their lifestyle, but usually fail.

For people who struggle to fit any exercise into their busy schedule, the thought of 150 minutes a week could put them off altogether.

The BHF supports the current guideline but we believe that people can get there by starting off with small bouts of at least 10 minutes a day. That would put them on a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Whether it is getting off the bus two stops earlier, using the stairs rather than the lift or dancing for ten minutes to your favourite songs, there are many ways to start introducing extra exercise into your daily routine.

If you are looking to improve your diet, making small changes such as swapping a sugary fizzy drink for a glass of water, or swapping sweets for a piece of fruit, will be beneficial to heart health. Rather than using salt, flavour your food with pepper, herbs, garlic, spices or lemon juice instead.

So our message is simple, anything is better than nothing, and taking small actions to improve your heart health will help decrease your risk of developing CVD.

For nurses in primary care, explaining how even small measures can help heart health can make the task more manageable for patients.

Mike Knapton, associate medical director, British Heart Foundation

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