8 clever ways to care for your heart

8 clever ways to care for your heart

A chocolate a day could keep the doctor at bay

Great news for chocaholics! Eating a small piece of the sweet stuff every day can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Mind you, it does have to be dark chocolate so switch your Dairy Milk for a healthier, at least 60% cocoa, bar.

This is because dark chocolate is full of heart-protecting flavonoids. The darker the chocolate, the higher its flavonoid content and the better it is for keeping you fighting fit. Don't take this as a green light for eating all your Easter chocs at once though. Chocolate's still high in calories and fat so savour your treats and enjoy them in moderation.

Put a little love in your heart

A little bit of what you fancy with your partner could help your heart. A good sex life helps keep your hormone levels in balance, which contributes to a healthy heart. It's also a great form of exercise that can burn up about 200 calories, or the equivalent of a brisk 15-minute run. So staying in bed might be just what you need.

Apple or pear?

Whether your body is apple-shaped (round in the middle) or pear (bigger on your bottom half) matters when it comes to your risk of heart disease.

Being apple shaped, with any excess weight around your tummy does put you at a slightly higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, compared to pear shapes. You want to aim for a waistline of less than 80cm (31.5 inches). Eating a varied, balanced diet and doing exercises that concentrate on working this area of your body, for example, with sit-ups, can help.

Get an eye test

You might not think the two are so closely connected, but getting a regular eye check can actually pick up on health concerns to do with your heart, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These can both lead to heart disease so spotting them early in an eye test could help save your life.

Sleep sound

Recent research has shown that not getting enough sleep could put you at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke, so it's important to make sure you get your full forty winks- at least seven hours of sleep a night.

To help you drift off more easily, try to avoid caffeine after noon, make your bedroom a haven of calm with no light peeping in and avoid checking your phone or laptop before bed which can disrupt your sleep.

We've got lots of tips to never have problems sleeping again here

Keeeeep dancing, even if you have two left feet

Any sort of exercise that gets your pulse racing is good for your heart – and dancing is no exception. Not only does dancing get your heart beat going, but it can also help improve your balance, posture and your joints, which can all help stave off osteoporosis. Most importantly, it's lots of fun and you forget it's exercise!

So whether you fancy salsa or ballroom, street dance or Zumba, dig out your dancing shoes and head to your local class! Find out more on how to dance yourself healthy and where to find your nearest class here

Laugh out loud

Embrace laughing out loud- it's great for you! Research shows that anything that makes you chuckle is good for your heart as it increases your heart rate and blood flow whilst boosting your immune response. 10-15 minutes of laughter also burns 50 calories – so get the girls together or watch your favourite comedian and enjoy a good old giggle.

Take just 15 minutes of calm

While we all have anxious moments, getting stressed raises your blood pressure and heart rate, so it's important to take time to cool down. Find just fifteen minutes each day to unplug yourself from everything going on around you, switch off your phone and enjoy some quiet time. You could also take up a yoga or meditation class to enjoy a full hour of stress-free calm.

Monday mornings, in particular, are a peak time for heart attacks above any other time of the week. So give yourself a little treat or something to look forward to on a Monday to try keep those stress levels down. Sipping a herbal tea or just practicing some deep breathing in the fresh air can also help

Find out how healthy your heart is with the Boots Heart Health Tool here

Looking after your heart is always important, but especially so as you get older and your risk of heart disease naturally goes up after the menopause. But loving your vital organ needn't be a chore- there are lots of simple, stress-free ways to care for your heart every day. Boots UK Pharmacist Angela Chalmers recommends her top tips for a healthy, happy heart.