About half of the population in Britain will develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) at some stage of their lives.

There are some risks for developing cardiovascular disease that can’t be changed such as your age, gender or family history of heart disease but there are other factors that can be modified to make it less likely:

• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Tobacco use
• Raised blood glucose (diabetes)
• Physical inactivity
• Unhealthy diet
• Cholesterol/lipids
• Overweight and obesity

An excellent link to the facts can be found here.

To see if you have some of these risk factors requires a visit to a doctor who can check the blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol. Other risk factors are all related to you! I often hear patients say that they don’t do enough exercise and are resigned to not doing it. They seem to accept a sedentary lifestyle as inevitable. The facts are quite stark.

Studies show that doing more than 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate physical activity or an hour of vigorous physical activity every week will reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by about 30%. If you do not keep active, the risk to your cardiovascular health is similar to that from hypertension, abnormal blood lipids and obesity. A middle-aged woman for example doing less than one hour of exercise per week doubles her risk of dying from a cardiovascular event compared to a physically active woman of the same age.

So what is the secret to exercising?

1. No amount of exercise is too small to do. The benefits of exercise add up over time.

2. Try and introduce exercise into your normal way of life. Think:

• Are you able to leave the car behind so you walk/cycle to the shops/work?
• Can you get off the underground train or bus one stop earlier so you walk?
• Do you need to use the lift or can you use the stairs?
• Can you get a dog who will force you to take him out for a walk?

3. If you do decide to perform more strenuous sport choose something you enjoy. Swimming is a great exercise but if you don’t enjoy doing it choose something different! Ideally do this with others who will encourage you.

4. Be realistic. Do not be overambitious. You want a lifetime of healthy exercise. An exercise programme 5 times a week at the gym is unsustainable for most people. Once a week to start with may be better.

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