Cardiologist Tips for a Healthy Heart.
A healthy heart provides a strong foundation for a happy and active life.
Three key tips to support heart health include: healthy eating habits, exercise and regular health checks.
Don’t delay… the best time to begin your healthy heart journey is today.
1. Healthy eating habits:
The traditional Mediterranean diet is a useful basis for sustainable healthy eating. It incorporates high fibre, healthy unsaturated fats, protein and whole grain foods, whilst keeping unhealthy saturated fats and processed foods to a minimum.
- Fresh produce including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes.
- Good fats including fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil.
- Protein including fish and chicken whilst minimising red meat (≤2 serves per week).
- Processed foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, processed meats, sweets and sugary drinks.
- High saturated fat dairy products such as butter, cream and ice cream.
- Take away food and minimise alcohol intake.
2. Exercise for heart health:
Regular exercise is important for physical and mental health during all stages of our lives.
Benefits of regular exercise include:
- Reduced risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke).
- Reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and assistance with weight control.
- Lower levels of pain, better sleep, improved mood and higher energy levels.
People should undertake exercise that they enjoy, aiming to build up to 150 minutes per week (30-45 minutes, 4-5 days per week).
Consider including activities that cover the following exercise types:
- Low intensity “Aerobic” or “Cardio” exercise, such as walking, bike riding or swimming.
- Moderate intensity interval-based exercise – repetitions may involve increasing the activity pace or resistance or exercising on hills/inclines.
- Strength work. This is particularly important to maintain muscle mass with age. Options include functional body weight activities or more formal weight-lifting based programs.
Note: If you are over 45 years of age or have health conditions, it is important to seek medical advice before starting an exercise program.
3. Regular health checks:
Atherosclerosis, the disease that leads to heart attacks and strokes, can start developing in individuals as young as 20 to 30 years of age.
Individuals over 45 years of age, should see their doctor on a yearly basis to assess risk factors for heart disease.
Common risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Cigarette smoking
- Family history of heart disease
Other less well-known risk factors for heart disease include:
- Ethnicity – First Nations people, Maori and Pacific Island people and South Asian ethnicity
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis
- High blood pressure during pregnancy or Gestational Diabetes
- Premature menopause
- Severe mental illness
Your doctor may conduct a physical assessment, order some blood and urine tests and if deemed appropriate send you for further investigations, such as a coronary artery calcium score which can help predict the future risk of heart attack and guide treatment decisions.
Dr Leighton Kearney
Senior Cardiologist and Practice Management Chair, Advara HeartCare