Did you know that almost one in three deaths in New Zealand are caused by cardiovascular disease? If you’d like to show your heart some love, here are some expert tips* to help you take care of your most important muscle. 

Understanding your risk factors

It’s important to note that anyone can get heart disease. But some things may increase your risk, like smoking, having high cholesterol or high blood pressure, having diabetes, not eating healthy food, and leading a sedentary life. Your age and family history also matter. For example, your risk is higher if you’re a woman over age 55 or a man over age 45.

The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to maintain your heart healthy…

Give your heart a WoF

Make sure you talk to your doctor and give your heart a ‘warrant of fitness’ every now and then, especially if you have some risk factors or simply for your own peace of mind. If you’re not quite sure when to get a heart check and how often, this guide is for you.

And in the meantime, you can also try the Heart Foundation’s ‘My Heart Check’. This free online tool is designed to calculate your heart age compared to your actual age. Plus, it estimates how likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke, and shares some great tips on how to reduce your risk. 

(Your heart will) thank you for not smoking

If you’re a smoker, quitting might be one of the best things you can do for your heart. According to the Heart Foundation, your risk of heart attacks starts to fall just 8 hours after you stop. Twelve weeks later, it gets easier for your heart to pump. One year later, your risk of heart attack falls to half that of a smoker. And 15 years after quitting, your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has never smoked.

Building movement in your day

The benefits of physical activity are almost too many to mention: it improves your mental health, reduces stress, manages your blood pressure, and help your heart function at its best.

Generally speaking, the more time you spend sitting, the worse it is for your heart health. So, it’s a good idea to take any opportunity to move your body and be physically active. This can include:

  • light activity like slow walking or housework; 
  • moderate activity like gardening, yoga, swimming or brisk walking;
  • vigorous activity, like spin classes, HIIT training, jogging or aerobics. 

The key thing is to move. So, why not set a weekly goal? The Heart Foundation recommends aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. 

Hearty meals

Is your diet supporting your heart health? Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, some whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is a good start. You may also choose to include poultry, dairy, and non-processed lean meats. 

Looking for inspiration? These healthy recipes are designed by professional nutritionists. And don’t forget that portion sizes are also important (yes, there can be too much of a good thing!). You can use your hand as a rough guide.

Keep stress at bay

Stress-management is a key skill to have when it comes to heart health. According to the Heart Foundation, “long-term stress means that you constantly have a higher level of adrenaline in your body, increasing your blood sugar, your blood pressure and making your muscles tense” – which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Of course, de-stressing might be easier said than done, so check out these tips and resources to get started.

*Sources: Heart Foundation | NZ Ministry of Health | Healthline.com

 

Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.