10 ways to love your heart Starting today!
Diabetes and heart issues often go hand in hand, but the good news is protecting your heart can be fun. Tennis, anyone?
1 Hit the sack
Getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you regularly wake up feeling less than refreshed, talk to your GP about how to create a good sleep pattern, as that can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
2 Sit and knit
Excessive stress can wreak havoc on your health, contributing to high blood pressure which in turn makes the heart work harder – a risk factor for stroke. Research from the Heart Foundation indicates that stress plays a part in causing heart attacks. Stress-busting activities like sewing, knitting and crocheting can help you wind down. Need another reason to unravel the yarn? It’s hip to knit: Kate Middleton and Ryan Gosling have both been known to purl and twist.
Fun and games
You don’t have to be good at sport to enjoy the social aspect. With tennis you'll improve your hand-eye coordination while burning around 1700kJ per hour. Physical activity helps you lose and maintain a healthy weight, which makes it easier for your heart to work efficiently and improves your quality of life. So set a date for a walk, swim, tennis or game of golf – you might even enjoy it!
Fit to quit
Smoking damages your heart and lungs, which is among the reasons why it’s the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. Smokers are more likely to develop atherosclerosis – build-up in the arteries – which can lead to heart disease or stroke. Quit smoking and you’ll have a higher tolerance for heart-healthy physical activity, too.
Control the pressure
High blood pressure is the most significant factor for stroke risk. While eating right, losing weight and cutting back on salt can help, some people are predisposed to hypertension: ask your GP for medication advice.
Shake the habit
Sodium increases your blood pressure, which taxes the heart. Hide the table salt and control your intake by cooking most of your meals at home. Goal: aim to consume less than 1600mg sodium per day.
Oily fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
Aim to include at least two to three serves of canned or fresh salmon, mackerel or sardines each week. Try our Blackened salmon, asparagus & cabbage salad (page 46) for a light, delicious and nutritious meal.
Savour your meals
Eating mindfully gives your brain time to register fullness while eating less. Losing 5-10 per cent of your weight can lower your blood pressure and boost heart health.
Get a pet
Or volunteer at an animal shelter. The RSPCA cites that pets can boost your cardiovascular health by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, and lowering triglycerides in men. Here's the proof: in a US study, people who never had a cat were found to be 40 per cent more likely to die of a heart attack and 30 per cent more likely to die of any cardiovascular disease (including stroke, heart failure and chronic heart disease) than cat owners.
Squirrel away a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack that’s rich in heart-healthy omega3s. Walnuts and flaxseeds pack the biggest punch, but brazil nuts, pecans and chia seeds contain omega-3 and boost HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Bonus: nuts and seeds add flavour as a salad topper, and spreads are perfect with apples or celery.