Is dry January good for your heart health?
-Jan 12, Jenny Paul, Health -
Many of us are doing dry January and going alcohol-free until February, and some people are also doing Veganuary – opting to go vegan for a full month as well. Whilst you might baulk at depriving yourself of your favourite tipple during what is undoubtedly the most miserable 31 days of the year, there’s new research that show that positive lifestyle changes in the New Year are having a sharp 10% drop in heart medication prescriptions during the winter months.
Data analysts Exasol have studied British medical prescribing data for the past seven years and have found that heart medication prescriptions peak in December, the month of indulgence. However, by February, heart medication prescribing drops by 10 per cent, indicating that improved lifestyle choices in January – either through dry January, taking up gym membership or watching your diet – has a measurable effect on health.
That’s certainly something to consider when reaching for the gin, rather than the gym, after a long day.
Heart disease is the leading cause of the death in the United States and a major cause of disability. Whilst the death rate from Cardiovascular disease is going down in the United Kingdom, the number of people living with it is increasing. The statistics show that year-on-year the prescribing of antianginals, which is closely correlated with the numbers with the disease, increasing by 2% on average.
Aaron Auld, who is the CEO of EXASOL says: “When analysing the data, we can see definitive proof that seasonal lifestyle habits have an impact on health.
“Heart disease remains a big issue across the UK, and the numbers show that it is on the rise. The use of data can help find solutions to the problem. To analyse such enormous data-sets fast, returning answers from the data within seconds, requires the right tool and we hope the findings help to further increase awareness of the risk factors associated with this disease.”
There are some factors linked to heart disease, which you can not change: These include age (men are at risk from the age of just 45 onwards while for women their chances increase at 55 and older), and family history.
As this study shows, there are ways to significantly lower your risk of heart disease and this is worth doing at any age – not just in your forties and fifties:
- Limit Alcohol – We suggested doing a “damp January”, which is basically not drinking in the week. Booze is a factor in heart disease for two reasons; it can raise your blood pressure and the extra calories can lead to weight gain.
- Keep To A Healthy Weight – Being overweight, or obese, increases your risk of heart disease because they’re linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Eat A Healthy Diet – The key to a happy heart is lots of fresh fruit, veg and wholegrains. The ones to limit are saturated fats, anything with lots of added sugar and sodium. Doctors recommend the DASH diet for people who would like to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure. It’s basically lots of fruits, vegetables, low fat or non-fat dairy, whole grains; lean meat, fish and poultry, nuts and beans. It is high fiber and low to moderate in fat. (We also love the Mediterranean diet for good health and longevity).
- Exercise – Doing some form of regular exercise doesn’t just help keep you happy from all the lovely endorphins, it strengthens your heart and helps to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Avoid Stress – Honestly stress crops up time and time again whenever we write about life-threatening diseases. It’s a killer. Getting angry raises your blood pressure and an extreme amount of stress is often the thing that triggers major heart attacks. You won’t be worried about a cap left off the toothpaste when you are lying in a hospital bed having just survived a life-threatening heart attack. Breathe and reboot. It’s also worth remembering that coping mechanisms for stress, including drinking, smoking and over-eating are also factors that contribute to heart disease so if you can take up some healthy habits like daily meditation, regular walks, or pounding your stress out while doing laps of the local swimming pool (or even boxing!) your heart will thank you for it.
- Sleep – Did you know that not getting enough sleep raises your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity? It’s not just beauty sleep, it’s healing sleep. Invest in rest.
Here’s some pointers to get you on track if you’re determined to make 2018 a healthier one.