5 things to check if your lifestyle is heart healthy


6 minutes

28 August 2020

Is your lifestyle heart healthy
Last updated: 28

Your heart works away every day to keep your body moving and your brain functioning. It’s easy to assume your heart is fine doing its job – but how often do you really think about the health of your heart?

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia with many not realising they’re at risk1. Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself whether your lifestyle is heart healthy.

To help understand these lifestyle factors and how they could impact your heart health, we’ve asked Susan Wellman, Pharmacist from Pharmacy 777, to provide her thoughts on these five questions.

1. Do you smoke?

"Smoking impacts many aspects of your health, including your heart health,' says Wellman. "If you smoke, your risk of death from cardiovascular disease is up to four times higher than that of a non-smoker.

"Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for the health of your heart," Wellman suggests.

The Heart Foundation reports that one year after quitting, your risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced by half2 – not to mention the other improved health outcomes.

2. Do you have a healthy diet?

Consuming a healthy diet can help to protect your heart’s health. What is meant by a ‘healthy diet’ is sometimes difficult to decipher. Susan confirms that a good place to start is being sure to eat five servings of vegetables and two serves of fruit per day.

The Australian Dietary Guideline highlight the need for reducing heavily processed foods that are typically high in calories, saturated fat, sugars and salt (cakes, biscuits, chips and sugar-sweetened drinks) and low in nutrients3.

3. What's your alcohol consumption?

There’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to alcohol and heart health – no more than four standard drinks a day, and no more than ten per week4. The Australian guidelines suggest that to reduce the risk from alcohol-related disease, a healthy adult should try to stick to that limit5. Simply put, the less you drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related disease!

Note: the current guidelines have recently undergone a review and updates to the guidelines are being made; for more information please visit https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-advice/alcohol.

4. Are you getting enough physical activity?

Your heart is a muscle, and just like other muscles, it benefits from a healthy amount of exercise.

When it comes to exercise and reducing your risk of heart disease, you really want to strive for the national guidelines.

“The Australian guidelines for physical activity are 2.5-5 hours of moderate activity per week, 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous activity, and two muscle strengthening sessions per week,” Wellman says.

“This equates to approximately 30 minutes per day. Moderate activity takes some effort, but you can still talk whilst doing it, whereas vigorous activity makes you huff and puff.”

Currently, more than half of Australians are not active enough6.

"It’s important to remember that doing any exercise is better than doing none, and it is never too late to start!” says Wellman.

5. Are you at a healthy weight?

Measuring weight alone is not the best indicator of health. Calculating your body mass index (BMI), which considers your gender and height as well as your weight, helps to determine if you are in a healthy weight range7.

Beyond BMI, another telling factor is your fat stores, especially the fatty deposits around your heart and other organs. A simple indicator of this is the size of your waist.

The World Health Organisation suggests8 your health risks are increased if your waist size is over 94cm for men or over 80cm for women*. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight can improve your heart health.

Underlying health conditions can increase your risk of heart disease

There are underlying factors that can increase your risk of heart disease. Having high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol combined with low HDL cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. So can age, gender, family history and ethnic background.

More than two-thirds of Australian adults have three or more risk factors for heart disease9. If you don’t know your risk factors, it might be helpful to get a health check.

Why not check up on your heart?

How is your heart health? What are your risk factors? Should you be doing more or less of anything? A quick health check from your local health professional can help you answer these questions.

“It can be a common tendency to only visit your local health professional when you’re unwell,” Wellman points out. “The beauty of a health check is that it assists with prevention. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes are largely preventable through early screening and lifestyle modifications.”

Where can I get a health check?

Pharmacy 777 offers private and convenient health checks. A Pharmacist will assess you, measure important health factors, and provide guidance.

“You’re provided with an on the spot report, where the results are explained and you’re given professional advice on lifestyle changes that could help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,” says Wellman.

Are you with HBF? Good news – eligible HBF members are entitled to one fully covered health check each year^.

Silver Hospital Cover

Great value hospital cover that includes cover for the investigation and treatment of the heart, heart-related conditions, and vascular system. For example, heart attacks, varicose veins and surgical removal of a heart tumour.

Find out more

1 AIHW - Deaths in Australia (2020)
2 Heart Foundation - Smoking and your heart (2019)
3 Eat For Health - About the Australian Dietary Guidelines (2015)
4 Department of Health - How much alcohol is safe to drink? (2020)
5 NHMRC - Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (2009)
6 Department of Health - Exercise and physical activity (2020)
Heart Foundation - What’s your BMI? (2019)
8 Department of Health - Waist circumference (2013)
9 Heart Foundation - Are you at risk of heart disease? (2019)


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.

* Waist circumference size is less accurate in some situations, including pregnancy, medical conditions where there is distension of the abdomen, and for certain groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese adults. Waist measurements should only be used for adults to check their risk of developing a chronic disease

^ Waiting periods may apply before any benefits are payable. Benefits are payable when services are delivered by an approved Member Plus pharmacy provider. Benefits are paid up to service and annual limits. Other terms and conditions may apply.