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Lifestyle Choices - Heartbeat Trust

Lifestyle Choices


Smoking is a major cause of death in Ireland. 1 in every 2 smoker’s die of a tobacco related illness. Smoking is especially bad for your heart health. If you are a smoker, the best first step towards better heart health is to find a way to stop.

The good news is that it is never too late to stop, with improvements to your general health starting just 20 minutes later when your blood pressure and pulse begin to return to normal. Within hours your oxygen levels will increase. Within days you reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. After 5 years your risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a non-smoker and after 10 years your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has never smoked.

There are many options and supports available once you make the choice to quit:

  1. Your local HSE promotion team hold sessions organised by a smoking cessation expert.
  2. Call the national Smokers Quit line 1850 201 203 or log onto www.quit.ie
  3. Your GP can help and support you and also prescribe medication to help you through.
  4. Your pharmacist can also assist in offering you advice on nicotine replacement therapies, which come in many forms.
  5. Alternative therapies
  6. Will power: You can go it alone

Find reasons to quit smoking:

  1. Concern for your own health
  2. For the good health of your family / relationships
  3. For your appearance
  4. Know someone with a health related illness
  5. That you’ve simply had enough of smoking

Tips to help you stop smoking:

  1. Keep a motivator close at hand, for example, a family photograph
  2. Make an appointment with your doctor to get as much advice and help as possible
  3. Avoid triggers mechanisms: Change you drinking routine of tea, coffee, alcohol
  4. Stay away from high risk smoking situations as much as possible
  5. Use distraction devices: Drink water, walk, laughter
  6. Start a quitting diary: Put your thoughts and feelings into words
  7. Don’t let a ‘slip up’ become a ‘mud slide’: Get back on track as soon as possible
  8. Evaluate previous failed quit attempts and then avoid them
Failure is only when you stop trying
STOP Smoking, SAVE Money!
It also helps to consider how much more money will be in your pocket. A smoker of 20 a day at €9 a packet would save €63 a week, €252 in an average month and €3,276 within a year.

There are many smartphone app’s available on the google play store and on the iTunes app.

Alcohol Consumption

In Ireland a standard drink has about 10 grams of pure alcohol in it and this is sometimes called a “unit” or a “standard drink”.

What is a “unit” or “standard drink in a pub?

  1. A pub measure of spirits (35.5ml)
  2. A small glass of wine (12.5% volume)
  3. A half pint of normal beer
  4. An “alcopop” (275ml bottle)

Always remember what you pour at home may not be the same measure as in a pub. For example, a bottle of wine at 12.5% alcohol contains about seven standard drinks

Drinking more than the recommended number of units or standard drinks may cause harm to your body and makes it more difficult to manage your weight.

Stress and Coping

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you really are” ~ Chinese proverb

If you find you often feel stressed, and you don’t have good ways to manage it, you are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, or irregular heartbeats.

Stress raises your blood pressure. It not good for your body to be exposed to the hormones related to stress. Studies also link stress to changes in the way blood clots, which increases health risks.

The way you handle stress is important. If you respond to it in an unhealthy way by overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol or not exercising that makes matters worse. On the other hand, if you eat well, exercise, connect with people, and find a way to manage your day despite the stress, that makes a difference in your emotions and in your body. In fact, most people find that routine, daily exercise is one of the best remedies for stress.

The first step is to recognise the signs of stress. The second is to find a way that works for you in managing it.

Try to change the source of stress, do you need to do something differently in work for example.

If the situation cannot be changed, change your reaction to it. Some ways to do this would be:

  1. Indulging in a pastime you enjoy such as walking, playing a round of golf.
  2. Take some time out from the situation which is causing the stress, listen to music, read, meditate or just take some deep breaths, in the fresh air if possible, these are all great ways to escape and relieve tension.
  3. Talk to friends and family let them know you are feeling stressed. Plan some time with them in a relaxed environment where you can talk and laugh.
  4. Handle life’s challenges one day at a time and remember not all situations are under your control.
  5. Try to recharge your batteries at the end of each day by going to bed a little earlier and aiming for 8 hours of sleep.
Mindfullness: How to look after yourself
  1. Accept there are events you cannot control
  2. Look at your work and life balance – can you make it better?
  3. Use the routine of daily exercise to manage stress
  4. If you are a carer, make sure to take time for yourself
  5. Do pleasurable things: walking, reading, gardening, other hobbies
  6. Try to keep positive
  7. Get enough sleep
  8. Eat well
  9. Avoid alcohol and smoking
  10. Seek social support
  11. Get help if you feel you are not coping

Weight Management
Weight management is the process of establishing a long term approach to a healthy lifestyle. In other words, if you reduce the number of calories you take in using a healthy balanced diet and increase the number of calories you put out by sticking to your physical activity plan you will notice the weight loss, feel happier and more energetic in a matter of weeks.

It is also about recognising what your body needs and taking control and responsibility on your over or under consumption of calories.

It is not a fad diet, designed to encourage weight loss at a rapid rate, instead a slow and steady progress for you to achieve what your ideal is.  

In STOP-HF, you will have your height and weight taken to establish your Body Mass Index (BMI). This is done by an equation which will give you a number. This number identifies which category you are in, healthy, overweight or obese.

Category BMI (kg/m2)
Severely underweight 15.0 to 16.0
Underweight 16.0 to 18.5
Normal (healthy weight) 18.5 to 25
Overweight 25 to 30
Obese Class I (Moderately obese) 30 to 35
Obese Class II (Severely obese) 35 to 40

You will also have your waist measured. If you are overweight and the extra weight is stored on your middle and not evenly distributed over your body studies have shown you are more at risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

A healthy waist measurement for:

  • Woman is less than 80cm or 32 inches
  • Man is less than 94cm or 37 inches
Aiming for BMI < 24.9? Tips on how to keep your weight down
  1. Through what you eat, drink and exercise
  2. Weigh yourself weekly
  3. Aim to lose a pound a week:
  • When you get up in the morning, go to toilet, stand on scales and take note of your weight
  • Repeat this one week later and if you have not lost 1 pound it shows that you are either eating/drinking too much or not doing enough exercise

Patient Testimonials

Some words from our patients:

“It is indeed so very reassuring to know that we have excellent doctors such as Prof McDonald and his team working on our behalf.’

“As a spouse of a stroke survivor, tonight talks made me more aware of the actions I need to take for my own health as well as that of my husbands.”

“I find the process reassuring and the people involved in STOPHF very kind and helpful”

“I feel secure in the knowledge that I am being monitored. Beneficial in having ongoing advice etc.”

“Because of the thoroughness of the annual checks I was kept aware of my medical condition”

“While on the research programme it was discovered I had too much hormone. Then I was sent to the Endocrinology team in SVUH for many tests. I was diagnosed to have a growth in my pituitary and acromegaly. I had surgery in Beaumont Hospital to remove the growth. I am so grateful to the Heartbeat Trust for finding this and sending me to have it researched and treated.

“Lovely people. Great work over many years which will clearly help our nation. Thank you for your information”