9 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Heart
This article discusses some of the best methods for maintaining good heart health.
When it comes to a healthy heart, trying to prevent is better than cure. We discuss the best ways you can keep your heart healthy.
While there are risk factors for heart disease that you cannot change, such as genetics, ageing and gender, it’s important to focus on the risk factors you have control over.
Here are some steps you can take to increase your heart health.
1. Don’t smoke
Smoking is the single largest risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, you are at least twice as likely to have a heart attack, and three times more likely to have a stroke.
2. Exercise regularly
We hear about this all the time, but how many of us actually do it? You should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most or all days of the week. Moderate intensity means the type of exercise that will cause a slight increase in your heart rate, and it needs to be kept up for at least 10 minutes, and ideally 30 minutes at a time. If you can’t do the whole 30 minutes in one attempt, you can instead do two sessions of 15 minutes each in a day, or three sessions of 10 minutes.
3. Move more
Many people don’t move around enough and this can be a risk factor for chronic issues, so in addition to moderate intensity exercise it’s important to move more and sit less during your day. For example, if you’re in a desk job, get up every hour and have a quick walk around your office. Have standing meetings, move around when taking phone calls, and walk over to someone’s desk to talk to them instead of sending an email. Stand on public transport where possible.
4. Maintain a healthy waist measurement
Many people focus on losing weight, which isn’t a bad thing; however, you need to be aware that it’s where the weight sits that really affects your risk of future heart disease. Carrying excess weight around the middle (or being an apple shape) is more of a health risk than the excess weight sitting on the hips or thighs (a pear shape).
5. Limit your alcohol intake
As a general rule, we recommend no more than two standard drinks a day. However, if you have an existing heart condition you may need to aim for fewer than this.
6. Have a check-up
Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor about your risk factors and ask for a heart health check. As a general rule, if you’re over 45 years old (younger if you have a strong family history of heart disease, or over 35 if you’re of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background) you should have regular heart checks. Some risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure often don’t have obvious symptoms, so many people wouldn’t know about them unless they get checked.
7. Include a moderate amount of unsaturated fats in your diet
Unsaturated fats are the good types of fats, found in things like nuts, seeds, margarine, avocado, oily fish and vegetable oils (excluding coconut or palm oils). It’s important to include moderate amounts of healthy fats in your diet, while keeping your saturated fat intake at a minimum. Avoid or minimise your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat, such as full-fat dairy, butter, cream, fat on meat, coconut and palm oil, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, pastries and deep fried takeaway foods.
8. Reduce your salt intake
Most people consume far too much salt, and a lot of this is hidden salt that comes from processed and packaged foods. Around 75% of our salt intake comes from these sources, so go fresh and unpackaged whenever possible. If you’re have to buy packaged or bottled food, choose reduced-salt options if available or look out for products with less than 120mg of sodium per 100g product. Lastly, don’t add salt to your cooking or at the table. You may find food bland and boring when you first start to reduce your salt intake but your taste buds will eventually adapt to the less salty taste after a few weeks.
9. Manage diabetes properly
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Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. If you have diabetes, it is important to ensure that you are having regular check-ups and keeping your blood-sugar levels within the recommended ranges.
Maintaining heart health is crucial to overall health. Spending a little time and attention on this vital organ will put you in the best position to achieve a long and healthy life.