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February is National Heart Month and Somerset’s GPs and local health organisations are asking everyone to help reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

According to the British Heart Foundation, 7.4 million people in the UK are living with cardiovascular disease (CVD) which kills 420 people in the UK every day.

The most common heart-related diseases are heart attack, stroke and angina. This happens, especially as you get older when your arteries become narrowed by fatty material and cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

Dr Ed Ford, Minehead GP and Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know there are a number of risk factors which make it more likely you will develop heart problems. These include high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and being overweight.  

“Having a high blood pressure raises your risk of heart disease and stroke, but you may have no symptoms. Getting your blood pressure checked is quick and painless, and knowing your blood pressure could save your life.

“Ask your GP practice about tests for blood pressure and cholesterol. If you think you have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, see your GP practice for confirmation and advice about treatment. And remember, your local pharmacy has qualified healthcare professionals who can offer clinical health and wellbeing advice and will tell you if you need to see a GP.

“If you’re aged between 40 and 74 ask your GP practice about the NHS Health Check. It’s free and is designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. It can also help you find ways to lower your risk by making simple lifestyle changes which will benefit your heart and its health.”

Councillor Christine Lawrence, Cabinet member for public health and wellbeing at Somerset County Council, said: “Being overweight can have a big impact on your health, especially if you carry weight around your middle. Stick to a healthy, balanced diet low in fat, sugar and salt, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and be more physically active.

“You don’t need to join a gym or run a marathon, it’s all about getting up and moving. Try setting some realistic targets for regular exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes a day. Even housework or gardening can benefit your heart and its health.

“Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to people who have never smoked, and stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart. The NHS Stop Smoking Service can help or ask your GP practice for help with quitting.”