This week is national Heart Week, and for 2017 the Heart Foundation is focusing on hypertension (also known as high blood pressure), which has the potential to lead to more serious heart conditions, including heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Many factors relating to heart disease can be influenced by our lifestyle choices. The Heart Foundation has identified the following 5 Healthy Heart Habits in reducing hypertension, which will help you to maintain a healthy heart.
- Regular Physical Activity – aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate activity or 75-150 minutes of high intensity activity per week1. Physical activity should also include muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
- Make exercise enjoyable. Here are some fun ideas you can try.
- Make gradual goals. If you are currently inactive, aim to incorporate small amounts of exercise to eventually achieve the recommendations. If you have already started being active continue to build on more activity so you can become fitter and fitter.
- Make a regular plan to exercise with a friend or family member. This will keep you motivated and connected at the same time.
- A Balanced Diet – moderate your intake of saturated fats, added salt and added sugars. Excessive consumption can increase your risk of high blood pressure and contribute to being overweight, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
- Find healthy substitutes – you can download this infographic on healthy alternatives to sugary snacks.
- Keep a folder of healthy recipes you love. Cook your way through these recommended recipes from the Dietitian Association of Australia for some ideas.
- Rather than eliminating foods from your diet, aim to reduce portion sizes and balance with healthy and nutritious whole foods.
- Limit added salt – as salt is a significant contributor to high blood pressure, the Heart Foundation consider salt consumption to be a standalone lifestyle factor3. To prevent high blood pressure, the Heart Foundation recommends less than 6g of added salt is consumed per day.
- Instead of salt, use other herbs and spices like pepper, chilli or lemon juice when cooking.
- Choose salt reduced options, where possible.
- Keep the salt shaker out of sight, rather than on the dining table or in the kitchen.
- Refraining from smoking – unsurprisingly, smokers obtain many immediate and long term health benefits from quitting smoking, including lower blood pressure and an overall reduction in the risk of heart disease.
- Pledge to Start by reducing your nicotine intake. Non-smoking nicotine sources may help to break the habit.
- Quit smoking for a cause and let your friends and family know about it, to keep you motivated and offer support.
- Seek personalised advice from your GP or trusted health professional for the most effective results.
- Moderate Alcohol Consumption – it is recommended to consume two drinks or less per day,2 as drinking more than two drinks per day can increase your risk of hypertension. Aim to reduce (if not eliminate) the number of days that you exceed the appropriate number of drinks.
- Measure your drinks with measuring utensils to identify how many standard drinks you are consuming. Try to consume one standard drink at a time.
- At social events involving alcohol, set a drink limit prior to attending and make a plan to avoid excess drinks.
- Alternate alcoholic drink consumption with other non-alcoholic options like sparkling water.
For more practical advice on maintaining a healthy heart, find out more about our free cardiovascular services, including a 6-week health & wellness program that’s delivered by experienced, friendly health professionals.