By Dr Helen Flaherty, Head of Health Promotion at Heart Research UK
Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia. People with mental health problems have an increased risk of developing heart disease.
If you are living with a mental health condition, there are things you can do to reduce this risk. Looking after your physical health can reduce your risk of developing heart disease as well as impacting positively on your mental health.
Follow a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
Eating a healthy diet can have a positive impact on your mood. Changing dietary habits can be difficult, but small changes can make a big difference. Try to plan healthy meals in advance and make sure you include five portions of fruit and veg every day.
If you are not adequately hydrated, you may find it difficult to think clearly and concentrate. Try to drink 6 to 8 glasses/cups of fluid each day. Water is a cheap and healthy option. Tea, coffee and juices all count, but these may be high in sugar or caffeine.
Get plenty of physical activity
Being physically active can help to improve your mood. Try to establish a realistic physical activity routine that fits in with your commitments. If you are not very active now, you should start slowly and try to be active every day, for example by going out for a short walk. If you do not feel like going outside, try exercising indoors.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol acts as a depressant and can have a negative impact on your mental health as well increasing your risk of heart disease. Try cutting down on alcohol by swapping to drinks with a lower alcohol content or having a soft drink between alcoholic drinks.
Smoking in people with mental health conditions is higher than the general population. Stopping smoking will reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other serious health problems. Stopping smoking is more successful if you plan ahead. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about the support and set a date to stop smoking. Calculate how much money you are saving by not smoking and use this to reward yourself.