Top 10 tips for a healthy heart

Heart disease is the single biggest killer of Australians. The good news is, you can take steps to help prevent it.

Know your numbers

Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose levels, high waist circumference and a high Body Mass Index (BMI) are critical risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke. Make sure you have these risk factors checked on a regular basis, particularly if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease.

Quit smoking

Both active smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke increases your risk of having a heart attach. This is due to the fact that it reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and damages blood vessel walls.

Lose weight if you are overweight or obese

Carrying too much body weight can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries).

Choose healthy fats over unhealthy fat

Unhealthy fats, known as saturated and trans fats can raise your cholesterol levels. You often find these types of fats in food that contain animal fats (such as meat, full fat dairy products and highly processed and fast foods) as well as in coconut and palm oil.

Reduce your salt intake

  • Too much salt in your diet may raise your blood pressure. To lower your salt intake you can:
  • Avoid adding salt to meals
  • Limit highly processed foods like salty snacks, sauces, takeaway foods and processed meat.
  • Choose 'no added salt' or 'reduced salt' products
  • Learn to check the nutritional panel on foods you buy. Salt is also called sodium. Aim for less than 4g of salt or 1600mg of salt per day.

Exercise regularly

Being physically active can reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure and becoming overweight or obese. Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend adults achieve a weekly total of 2.5 - 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, along with strength-training (resistance) activities twice a week.

Learn to manage your emotional health

Forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. In some people stress can also increase emotional eating and obesity. Learn to identify the signs of stress, identify its source and connect with others.

Watch your alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Australian guidelines recommend no more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day.

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day. This is because they contain:

  • Antioxidants, which can help reduce damage to blood vessels
  • Fibre, which can help to lower cholesterol
  • Folate (found in green leafy vegetables) which may reduce risk of stroke
  • Postassium, which can help control blood pressure

Seek medical opinion

If you are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, talk to your doctor about techniques that can help reduce your risk.

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