9 out of 10 Australians have at least one risk factor for heart disease1 so what are the lifestyle changes we can make to help our hearts?
Heart disease is Australia’s leading single cause of death.2 HBF Medical Director, Dr. Andy Papa Adams explains how heart disease is a broad term that includes a wide range of conditions that affect your heart, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmias.
“There are many factors that can contribute to your risk of developing heart disease. Some are factors that you cannot change, such as family history, but some are things that you have more control over." says Dr. Andy
How to lower your risk3
- Maintain a healthy weight
Being in an unhealthy weight range can contribute to the development of many health conditions including heart disease. It is important to aim to keep your weight in the optimal range – using tools like a BMI calculator and measuring your waist circumference can help to understand if you may be outside the optimal weight range.
- Be physically active
- If you are inactive, you are almost twice as likely to suffer coronary heart disease, compared to those who get enough exercise. It can also help you manage weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Medical advice is to be active every day of the week, aiming for around two and a half to five hours of moderate intensity exercise per week.
- If you’re currently not getting enough physical activity look to increase your exercise gradually to work up to the recommendations, find an activity you enjoy and stick with it.
- Limit alcohol
Consuming alcohol above the recommended amount over the long term can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Guidelines for the general population is to drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day. If you have any difficulties cutting down your alcohol intake, speak to your GP who’ll be able to direct you to supports that can help.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Regularly consuming foods that are high in unhealthy fats, salt, added sugar, and low in things like, fibre, vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats can impact your heart health. Your plate should be filled with a variety of vegetables of different colours. A quarter should be wholegrains, such as wholegrain bread or rice, or cereal grains such as buckwheat or corn. And a quarter should be made up of healthy proteins such as beans, lentils, fish and seafood, with smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry.
- A good place to start when making dietary changes is with your GP or a dietitian.
- Quit Smoking
- Smoking significantly increases the risk of dying from heart disease in middle-aged men and women. If you are a smoker, quitting is a great way to manage your risk of heart disease along with producing many other health benefits.
- Support programs and services like Quitline and myQuitBuddy are available for free to help you make the change.
Start with these five and your heart will skip a beat, in a good way.
Do you know your blood pressure?
High blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease - which is why you should have it checked regularly even if you're feeling great.
Everyone aged 18 and over should have their blood pressure measured at least once every two years.
Blood pressure can be measured at home using a validated machine, at selected pharmacies, or by a doctor or nurse during your next doctor’s appointment.
Are you with HBF? Good news – eligible HBF members are entitled to one fully covered health check each year with Pharmacy 777, which includes a blood pressure check.
If you’re an HBF member, you can check what you're covered for by logging on to myHBF or calling us on 133 423.
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This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.