Sunday 29th April to Saturday 5th May is Heart Week here in Australia, an annual occasion promoted by the Heart Foundation in a bid to raise awareness, education and ultimately try to lower the staggeringly high levels of heart disease in our country.
According to national statistics, heart disease is the biggest killer of Australians. What makes that statistic even more shocking is that the majority of cardiovascular conditions can be prevented and/or treated.
When it comes to keeping your heart in optimum beating condition, there are a few pretty obvious things: If you smoke, try to stop. Maintain a healthy weight. Keep yourself fit. And of course, don’t overdo it with the booze.
But, there are also a ton of other ways you can help your heart stay healthy. Here are our top ten tips for a healthy heart.
Your heart health is in your hands, and the sooner you identify an issue the more chance you have to remedy it. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked at least once per year. If you need to, ask your doctor to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice, including taking any medications as directed.
Skip the soda
Many of us don’t realize just how many calories are hiding in those sugary drinks. To make keeping a healthy weight just a little more attainable, save your calories for the things that really matter and ditch the high-sugar sodas.
Get a little nutty
With their healthy balance of protein, fat and fibre, nuts are great solution when the 3pm snack attack calls. And, according to the American Heart Association, they can also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Just take care to watch your portions – while nuts are full of healthy stuff, they’re also high in calories.
Drink more water
Increasing your water intake is one of the best things you can do for your health. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. Not only will you stay hydrated but drinking water can help you feel fuller for longer which, in turn, helps you avoid over-eating.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy heart. As our resident dietitian, Emma Morris, says: “research shows that plant based omega-3 is essential for a healthy heart as it helps to lower cholesterol. Both omega-3 ALA (found in chia) and DHA ( found in oily fish) are vital for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Heart Foundation recommends a daily consumption omega-3 ALA and just 1 tbsp of chia will provide you with your full RDI.”
Increase your fibre
Fibre comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble, both of which have been shown to prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Insoluble fibre is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Soluble fibre sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears. Chia is a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Bend and stretch
There’s a reason why yoga has been practiced faithfully for thousands of years; not only can it help improve balance, flexibility, and strength, but it also lowers stress which is essential for health and wellbeing. The potential for yoga to lower the risk of heart disease has been highlighted in recent research, published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
Get your LOLs
Laughter really is the best medicine, it turns out! According to the American Heart Association, laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol.”
Cacao is a rich source of flavonoids which can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease, according to scientists in the journal, Nutrients. Avoid the sugary milk chocolate version and opt for dark, bittersweet chocolate – just remember, moderation is key.
Get your Zzzzz
If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits. Researchers believe sleeping too little can cause disruptions in biological processes and impact on underlying health conditions, including blood pressure and inflammation.