Every 90 minutes one New Zealander dies of heart disease, accounting for 33% of deaths annually. This is a problem for men and women alike but in May, the Heart Foundation are focusing on women because heart disease is the single biggest killer of women in New Zealand. They are aiming to have women take control of their health and work together to reduce these statistics. In Napier on May 13th 2018, they are hosting the Mother's Day Fun Run at 10:00am at Marine Parade foreshore reserve. Click here for details on how to join in.
Fun run or not, there are still many things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are 8 of our best tips:
Check your diet against the Heart Foundation healthy heart food guide
The new heart shaped guide recommends eating plenty of vegetables and fruit; eating some grains and starchy vegetables, protein, dairy and healthy oils, nuts and seeds. Junk foods, takeaways, sugary drinks or salty and fatty foods should be cut back on. The Heart Foundation website is a great resource for this and other information.
Replace animal fats with healthy oils
Think of an old car that has been cleaned and serviced regularly with the best oils and lubricants. It is still as good as the day it rolled off the assembly line. Good oils, rich in omega 3, can lower cholesterol and inflammation. Studies have shown that fish oils reduce the risk of death after a heart attack by 50%. Good oils can be found in deep sea fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna) as well as avocados, nuts and olive or grapeseed oil.
Keep your body weight in the ideal range
Your body mass index (BMI) is your weight adjusted for your height to measure total body fat and relative risk of obesity-related diseases. It can be skewed by muscle mass. A healthy range is 18.5 to 25 and it is important to see your doctor if your BMI is over 40.
Our pharmacists can help you calculate your BMI to see how close you are to your ideal weight. It is also recommended to have a waist measurement of less than 88cm for women and 102cm for men.
Check your magnesium levels
Your magnesium levels can be checked by your doctor however certain symptoms can indicate if there is a deficiency. Restlessness, anxiety, irritation, poor sleep, muscle cramps or twitches, headaches and tiredness are all signs of magnesium deficiency. If you don’t have enough magnesium your heart may be struggling to work properly, which can mean that blood pressure and cholesterol levels can start to rise.
Magnesium rich foods include raw spinach (a great swap for lettuce), pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, mackerel, beans and lentils, brown rice, avocados, yogurt, bananas and dark chocolate.
Be a non-smoker
Be physically active
This doesn’t mean you have to run marathons. Moderate physical activity for 30 minutes a day, even in 10-minute chunks, is important to prevent heart disease; lower your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke; reduce stress and depression; control your weight and improve your overall wellbeing and health. You will know when you are doing moderate activity as you will feel warmer, breathe harder and your heart will be beating faster than normal but you can still carry on a conversation. The Heart Foundation say that for each hour of exercise you do, you gain about two hours of life expectancy.
Some ideas to cope with life’s challenges include taking one step at a time, practice positive self-talk, connect with others, do a little something that you enjoy every day and get help when you need it. Relaxation methods, meditation, yoga or going for a lovely walk along the beach can also help some people.
Visit your doctor for a check up
Men should go at age 45 and women at age 55 (unless you are Maori, from the Pacific or from the Indian sub-continent, or you have risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol – in which case men should be assessed for cardiovascular risk at age 35 and women at age 45).
Underlying conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure should be managed by your doctor and it may be necessary to take medications in some cases.