Top Tips for a Healthy Heart
Heart disease is one of the major diseases affecting Australian adults. Fortunately, there are some simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to improve your chance of beating heart disease.
Quit smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as non-smokers, which is why quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to live longer. From the moment you stop smoking, your risk of heart attack starts to reduce.
Exercise and lose weight. Your heart needs exercise to keep fit for its arduous task of pumping blood efficiently round your body for the rest of your life. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day.
Carrying a lot of extra weight as fat can greatly affect your health, increasing the risk of heart disease. Start by making small, healthy changes to what you eat, and try to become more active.
Eat a balanced diet. Healthy eating helps to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and can also help increase your chances of survival after a heart attack. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, and starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. Avoid foods like biscuits, cakes, pastries and dairy products that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
Cut your salt intake. Too much salt causes high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Try to limit your intake of foods such as chips, salted nuts, fast food, pies, and frozen meals. Many breakfast cereals and breads that appear healthy also contain high levels of salt, so it pays to check these too.
Limit your alcohol. Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and lead to weight gain. Aim to limit your alcohol intake to two drinks per day (for men) and 1 drink per day (for women).
Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked by your GP. People with high blood pressure run a higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. High cholesterol levels in the blood lead to fatty deposits in your coronary arteries that increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diseases that affect the circulation. You can help lower your cholesterol level by exercising and eating high-fibre foods such as beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Recognise the early signs of coronary heart disease. Tightness or discomfort in the chest, neck, arm or stomach when you exert yourself that goes away when you rest may be the first sign of angina, which can lead to a heart attack if left untreated.