Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of Australia’s largest health problems and is a major cause of death in Australia, with 43,477 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2017.
CVD refers to all diseases and conditions involving the heart and blood vessels, with coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure/cardiomyopathy being the most common.
CVD prevalence increases with age, with 35% of Australians aged 55-64 reporting a long-term CVD condition, increasing to 66% for Australians aged 75 and over.
While these statistics are frightening, the good news is that most CVDs can be prevented and well-managed by adopting a heart healthy lifestyle.
Adopting a heart healthy lifestyle
The Heart Foundation offers the following tips to keep your heart healthy:
Being a non-smoker is one of the best things you can do to keep your heart healthy. If you’re looking to quit smoking, Quit Now has a range of resources to help.
Be physically active
Maintaining a regular exercise routine is great for your heart health. While any activity is better than none, the Heart Foundation suggests aiming to be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity or vigorous intensity physical activity each week and add in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days each week.
Enjoy a range of nutritious foods
Heart-healthy eating doesn’t rely on you depriving yourself or feeling like you have to add all the latest ‘superfoods’ to your shopping list. Instead, choose a wide variety of foods with a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and foods rich in wholegrains, fibre, unsaturated fats and antioxidants. For recipes and tips, visit heartfoundation.org.au/ healthy-eating.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
Eating healthily and maintaining physical activity will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. To keep your weight in the healthy range, The Heart Foundation recommends you keep an eye on your Body Mass Index as well as your waist circumference. A BMI between 18 and 24 is normal and over 25 is overweight. For waist circumference, aim for a measurement below 94cm for men and below 80cm for women.
Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are clinical risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Both can be managed with healthy lifestyle and medication if needed.
Look after your mental health
People who have depression, are socially isolated or do not have good social support can be at greater risk of heart disease. So, looking after your mental health, maintaining an active social life and staying connected to family and friends can help. If you need information on depression, visit Beyond Blue.