Healthy steps to help en­sure a healthy heart

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR BODY -

There are a num­ber of things that can in­crease your risk of heart dis­ease. Some of these risk fac­tors can be changed by you, while oth­ers can’t. By mak­ing pos­i­tive changes, you can dra­mat­i­cally re­duce your risk of hav­ing a heart at­tack.


Be­ing smoke-free is the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing you can do for your health. Ev­ery cig­a­rette you smoke will harm you. Most peo­ple as­so­ciate smok­ing with breath­ing prob­lems and lung can­cer, but smok­ing is also a ma­jor cause of heart dis­ease for women and men.

High blood pres­sure

High blood pres­sure means your blood pres­sure is con­sis­tently higher than the level rec­om­mended for you. As your ar­ter­ies be­come nar­rower and less stretchy, your blood pres­sure rises. One high blood pres­sure reading is not un­usual but if you have had sev­eral high read­ings, you may be di­ag­nosed with high blood pres­sure. Cut­ting back on the amount of salt you eat, can help to lower your risk of high blood pres­sure.

Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity

Be­ing ac­tive is key to hav­ing a healthy heart. Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can help lower your blood pres­sure, im­prove choles­terol lev­els, re­duce your risk of di­a­betes and re­lieve stress.

The good news is that peo­ple who have been in­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence the big­gest health ben­e­fits from start­ing mod­er­ate phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Fam­ily his­tory

You are at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing heart dis­ease if an im­me­di­ate male rel­a­tive, such as your fa­ther or brother, has had a heart at­tack be­fore the age of 55, or if an im­me­di­ate fe­male rel­a­tive, such as your mother or sis­ter, has had one be­fore the age of 65.

Even if you have a strong fam­ily his­tory of heart dis­ease, you can still pro­tect your­self by tak­ing good care of your heart. Watch your weight, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, eat healthily and avoid smok­ing.

Weight man­age­ment

Be­ing over­weight in­creases your risk of heart dis­ease. This is be­cause be­ing over­weight or obese is strongly linked to other fac­tors such as high blood pres­sure, high choles­terol and di­a­betes. The main cause of be­ing over­weight and obese is sim­ple – we eat more than we ex­er­cise.

High choles­terol

High blood choles­terol oc­curs when you have too much choles­terol in your blood. Peo­ple who have high blood choles­terol have a greater chance of get­ting heart dis­ease. One of the main causes of high choles­terol is a diet that’s high in sat­u­rated fats. Things you can do to reach a healthy choles­terol level:

❚ Cut back on foods con­tain­ing sat­u­rated or trans fats e.g. fatty meats, cakes and bis­cuits.

❚ Choose re­duced fat dairy prod­ucts.

❚ Re­place sat­u­rated fats with healthy oils such as olive, sun­flower, rice bran or av­o­cado oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish.

❚ Fol­low a heart healthy di­etary pat­tern which is based largely on min­i­mally-pro­cessed foods and is high in veg­eta­bles and fruit. It also in­cludes some whole grains (in place of re­fined grains), legumes, nuts, seeds and other sources of healthy fats such as oily fish, and can con­tain non-pro­cessed meats or poul­try and/or dairy.

❚ Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can also help in­crease ‘ good’ HDL choles­terol.

Peo­ple who have been in­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence the big­gest health ben­e­fits from start­ing mod­er­ate phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

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