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People may be more motivated to change their behaviour, lessen the stress and love their heart if they understand exactly why they should.

So what exactly is the connection between heart disease and smoking, fatty foods and alcohol? And why does exercising lower your risk of developing it?

1. Diet is key. If we eat more fat than we need, the excess attaches to the walls of the arteries, slowly cementing and hardening them. The arterial walls also thicken, narrowing the channels making it difficult for blood to pass through to the heart," says Dr Vincent Maher of the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF)

  • Eating more fruit, vegetables, breads, cereals, rice and pasta should be part of a healthy diet.
  • Fish, particularly oily fish with omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

2. Exercise results in a generally more healthy life. Exercise burns off calories and helps to maintain a healthy weight. A fit person, unfortunate enough to have a heart attack, will be in a better position to fight it and will probably return to a better quality of health after it.

3. Why is smoking bad for the heart? Smoking is harmful in two major ways. First, nicotine constricts the arteries, and carbon monoxide makes the blood less effective in carrying oxygen. Second, smoking promotes clotting through its effect on the blood.

4. Excessive alcohol damages the heart indirectly through liver damage and increased risk of high blood pressure.

Word has it that one to two glasses of red wine per day performs a protective function against heart disease. Couple that with the fact that it is a "social lubricant", we have the benefit of encouraging social interaction - that is unless you drink alone.

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