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Your guide to a healthy heart

24 April 2014

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, but as naturopath Kate Ferguson explains, it's largely preventable with some simple risk factor management.

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Risk Management

Stub out that cigarette
Smoking will increase your risk of having a heart attack by 2 to 3 times more than someone who doesn't smoke.

Know your blood pressure
Elevated blood pressure places added stress on the heart and blood vessels. Have your blood pressure regularly checked by your healthcare professional.

Cholesterol
Elevated blood levels of cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD). LDL cholesterol, also known as the ‘bad' cholesterol, leads to fatty deposits in the arteries and interferes with circulation.

Manage middle-age spread
We are an ‘expanding' population. The National Health Survey of 2004-05 found that the proportion of people classified as overweight is highest in older age groups, and the number of people classified as being overweight has increased when compared to previous surveys.

Your risk of CVD is increased if your waist measurement is greater than 94cm for men or 80cm for women.

Trim the fat and toss the salt
A diet that is high in saturated fat will lead to increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. Saturated fats are found in fatty cuts of meat, full fat dairy products and deep fried foods.

A high salt diet puts you at increased risk of high blood pressure.

Heart Facts

  • The heart is a muscular organ about the size of the fist.
  • In one day your heart will beat approximately 100,000 times.
  • The term cardiac, meaning "related to the heart", comes from the Greek word kardia, meaning heart.

Top Tips for a Healthy Happy Heart

Food to nourish your heart
You know to watch your saturated fat and salt intake, so what foods can help the health of your heart? Your diet should include the following:

  • Oily fish- such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These ‘good' fats help to decrease triglycerides, maintain blood flow and elasticity of blood vessels.
  • Whole grains- are high in fibre, important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. 
  • Fresh veggies & fruit- eating a variety of these fresh foods will provide a range of nutrients, including antioxidants, and they are also high in fibre.
  • Legumes- are a great source of protein and dietary fibre.
  • Raw nuts and seeds- provide essential fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Garlic & onions- may help to maintain healthy cholesterol.

The added bonus? Healthier eating will lead to a narrower waist line!

Move it!
Regular exercise is essential to prevent CVD. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise on most days incorporating activities that you enjoy. If you haven't exercised for a while, you may wish to get a check up with your health care professional before you get started.

References available on request

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