Heart of the matter

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Heart disease is the number one cause of death across the world. (1) While we cannot influence heart disease risk factors, such as genetics and ageing, there are other risk factors that we can reduce and manage. (1,2) 

Here are some healthy heart strategies:

  1. Get active. Studies have found that by just exercising for 60 – 90 minutes a week, you can reduce your heart disease risk by up to 50 percent! But even though physical activity is recommended for everyone, it is best to get the thumbs up from your doctor, before starting an exercise regime, especially if you have a heart condition. The recommended time for doing physical activity in a day ranges between 30 to 60 minutes – but even 10 minutes a day could make a huge difference! This does not have to be rigorous or formal exercise, take the stairs, take a walk – just get off the couch. (3-5)
  2. Eat well. Enjoy a healthy, well-balanced diet that is focused on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Choose whole-grains rather than refined carbohydrates, as well as lean meats, fish and low fat dairy products.  Reduce saturated fats and salt, avoid trans fats and increase your intake of the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. (3-5)
  3. Manage your health conditions. Poor management of conditions such as diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease. (2,4) Take better care of your health by taking all the tests and screenings relevant to your age and gender.
  4. Maintain healthy weight. Having a healthy weight could reduce your risk of heart disease and developing other healthy problems. It could be helpful to find out what your Body Mass Index (BMI) is, and if you have an unhealthy percentage of body fat, to embark on a diet and exercise regime to return you to a heart healthy state. (4,5)
  5. Stop smoking – really! If you are currently smoking tobacco products, even lightly, one of the greatest things you can do for your heart is to quit. Smoking affects every aspect of your health negatively. Stopping smoking is the best gift you can give yourself. (2,4,5)
  6. Avoid or limit alcohol. Alcohol contains a lot of kilojoules which go around your waist – by limiting or even avoiding alcohol completely, you can lower your risk of heart disease. (4,5)
  7. Sleep well – getting your 8 hours of sleep a night, could help reduce your risk of heart disease. Good quality sleep is good for your heart. (3)

Have mental health.  People who are depressed, socially isolated or do not have good social support, often run the risk of heart disease. Get connected, get help and get moving. If you are feeling depressed, sad or low, for longer than two weeks, speak with your doctor for help. (4)

References: 1.  World Health Organisation. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Fact Sheet. [online] 2017 May [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from: URL: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/. 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Risk Factors. [online] 2015 Aug [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from: URL: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm. 3. Mayo Clinic. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease. [online] 2017 Sep [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from: URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/healthy-heart/faq-20057842?p=1. 4. Heart Foundation. Keep your heart healthy. [online] [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from: URL: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/keep-your-heart-healthy. 5. NHS Choices. Top 10 healthy heart tips. [online] [cited 2017 Oct 23]. Available from: URL: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Healthyhearts/Pages/Healthy-heart-tips.aspx.

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