Matters of the heart Ten ways you can be kind to your ticker
(10 HABITS TO PROTECT YOUR HEART)
how’s your heart? If it’s still ticking, that’s a plus! Ideally, though, you want it to be still ticking and in great working order so it can do its job (pumping oxygen-rich blood and vital nutrients to every nook and cranny of your body) with a minimum of fuss. Boring stat time: cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia and about
4.5 million Aussies live with some degree of heart and/or blood vessel trouble that puts them at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Sure, some conditions are hereditary or congenital, but most, according to the Heart Foundation, are largely preventable. Meaning it doesn’t have to be this way! Manageable risks include high blood pressure (BP), high cholesterol, being obese or overweight, type 2 diabetes, smoking and parking your butt instead of putting it in drive.
Agreed, some lifestyle habits are tough to change. Also agreed, any inconvenience incurred trying to implement those changes will be more than worth it!
HERE’S A FEW TO
GET YOU STARTED
1 Be aware of your personal risk
factors. Know your numbers (BP, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, waist circumference). Knowledge is power.
2 Eat less red meat. Researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the US found frequent red meat eaters had triple
the levels of a gut-generated chemical linked to heart disease than those who ate mainly white meat and plantbased proteins. Aim for less than three serves per week.
3 Eat more fish,
especially oily varieties, for their heart-healthy omega 3 benefits. Fish is also a great source of low sat-fat protein, zinc and vitamin B12. Choose from fresh or canned salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, sardines, mullet and trout. 4 Be salt wise. By lowering your sodium intake, you help lower high BP, too. Shake less at the table, but also watch out for high sodium in snacks and takeaway food.
5 Rethink the strong stuff.
The heart health benefits of alcohol, specifically red wine, may have been somewhat overstated, according to the latest findings. No more than one standard drink per day is the current go. Excessive consumption, along with binge drinking, is no bueno for your heart.
6 Don’t smoke. While the number of smokers in Oz has fallen dramatically in the last decade, about 2.5 million people still light up daily and a further quarter million admit to ‘social’ smoking. Along with being the leading preventable cause of cancer deaths, it robs your heart, lungs and brain of oxygen, and damages blood vessels.
7 Sleep well. Poor-quality sleep can play havoc with your heart, especially if you have sleep apnoea. Sufferers (usually heavy snorers) stop breathing for precious seconds multiple times a night as obstructed airways starve the body of oxygen. It usually takes a partner to notice, but if you’re constantly exhausted despite getting eight hours, ask your GP about a sleep study.
8 Relax! The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline come in handy when you’re running from a bear, but living with chronic stress is horrible for your total mental and physical wellbeing. Identify your major stressors and get busy crafting ways to nix or calm them. ‘Me’ time in which you often do something that brings you joy and/or peace is a non-negotiable. 9 Be active. Exercise strengthens your heart by helping you reach and stay at a healthy weight. It also keeps red flag problems such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes at bay. Ideally, a combo of aerobic exercise (to elevate heart rate) along with resistance (strength) work and stretching (for flexibility) is best. But, going with the theory that something is better than nothing, just go for a brisk daily walk if that’s all you can fit in!
10 Find the funny. Laughter helps reduce stress, improve circulation, boost immunity and get those happy hormones flowing. Shared laughter is one of life’s great bonding opportunities, and fosters good-for-yourheart friendship and intimacy.
Exercise is a celebration of what can do HEART FOUNDATION