February is Heart Health Awareness Month at Third Avenue Surgery. We are raising awareness about heart disease because it is the world’s leading cause of death, and the largest killer of Australian people.
When it comes to heart health, the main contributing factors are genetics and lifestyle. While genetics is out of our control (e.g. age and gender), there are many aspects of our lifestyle where we can make changes to positively impact the long-term health of our hearts. Here are a few examples of lifestyle choices that can have a huge impact on your health.
Smoking and Heart Health
Smoking affects the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle. It encourages substances like fat and cholesterol to stick to the walls of the arteries forming a “plaque”, which makes them narrower and makes blood flow to the heart more difficult. Smoking also causes blood vessels to become hard which contributes to the problem and increases the risk of heart attacks.
There are various methods available to help with smoking cessation. If you are interested in stopping smoking, call the practice to make an appointment with your regular GP. You can discuss what options suit you best and explore what support is available.
You can also call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Department of Health website.
Diet and Heart Health
A healthy heart diet is typically one that is low in saturated fat, salt and sugar but high in wholegrains, fibre, fruit and vegetables and unsaturated fat. When making changes to your eating habits it’s better to consider what is healthy and sustainable for you long-term rather than resorting to crash diets to lose weight quickly.
While being overweight increases the likelihood of having poor heart health and high cholesterol, slimmer people can be affected too, especially if other members of the family are known to have high cholesterol.
Cholesterol largely contributes to the fatty build-up (plaque) in the walls of the blood vessels. There are two main types of cholesterol;
LDL (low density lipoprotein) is commonly referred to as the “bad cholesterol” and is the type that is involved in plaque formation.
HDL (high density lipoprotein) or the “good cholesterol” actually helps reduce the build-up of plaque on the arteries.
Knowing what fats to avoid or reduce in your diet and what “healthy fats” to include can help manage your overall cholesterol levels. Look at the Heart Foundation website for more information:
Exercise and Heart Health
Being active can positively affect numerous risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, being overweight and high cholesterol levels.
The National guidelines for the 18-64 year age bracket suggests a minimum of 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise per week. This is 30 minutes per day of exercise for at least five days per week, “Find 30!”. Some may find this amount quite daunting, but any activity is better than no activity so start with something manageable and realistic, especially if it has been a while since you last exercised. If you have issues with mobility or other health issues that make it difficult to exercise, please make an appointment to see your GP for advice on where to start.
Your GP – your greatest resource
Being informed about your health, and being supported, is much better than worrying alone. Smoking cessation, improved diet and regular exercise are just some of the ways you can make small changes that can lead to a much healthier heart. If you have a family history of heart problems you may benefit from a more comprehensive health assessment from your GP. The Doctors at Third Avenue Surgery can help get you on the right track, whether you want a simple blood pressure check or to discuss and manage your long-term heart health.
Call the practice on 9272 5533 or book an appointment online.