Health: Learn to love your heart

Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in the UK, responsible for four in ten of all deaths. The majority of those - 123,000 - are women. We asked the British Heart Foundation for five key steps to ensuring your heart stays as healthy as possible:


* Exercise. Thirty minutes of concerted effort that makes you warm and slightly breathless five times a week keeps your heart strong.


* Eat healthily. Five portions of fruit and veg a day helps lower harmful cholesterol and raise protective cholesterol.


* Give up smoking. Smoking slows oxygen transfer through to blood which damages artery walls. Also, additives in nicotine increase the heart rate and make the heart work harder.


* Keep weight down. Being overweight makes it harder to push blood around the body, which increases blood pressure. High blood pressure is known as one of the ‘silent killers’ - it can lead to strokes and heart attacks.


* Look at your family. If there’s a history of heart or circulatory problems in your family – particularly in otherwise healthy, fit people – talk to your doctor; it may be the sign of a genetic condition.


And if you ever experience pain in your chest, arm, neck or jaw that’s severe and doesn’t go away, especially if it’s accompanied by nausea, sweating or dizziness, call an ambulance. "Women tend to ignore the symptoms of a heart attack," says Cathy Ross, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. "They’ll put it down to indigestion or a pulled muscle."

More on: