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With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's a great time to show your heart some love. One in three Kiwis will die of a heart-related illness. “It’s our single most common cause of death but surprisingly few people really consider looking after their heart until something happens to it,” says Heart Foundation medical director Dr Gerry Devlin. Don’t ever ignore chest pain and, in the meantime, remember that keeping your heart healthy is simpler than you might think. “There’s no rocket science to it, just a series of smart, sensible ideas,” he says.
“Research shows time and time again that exercise is great for your heart. More is better than a little, but a little is far better than none,” says Dr Devlin. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise five to six days a week.
Tighten Your Belt
Tummy fat is one of your heart’s worst enemies. Known as visceral fat, that layer around your middle makes toxins like cytokines that boost your chances of heart disease. The extra weight also wears out your joints, making it harder to do the exercise needed to boost heart health.
When it comes to diet, the key is to avoid refined carbohydrates. “By consuming less processed food you’ll make your body work harder for the calories you give it and that’s got to be a good thing,” says Dr Devlin. Steer clear of fad diets and focus on eating healthy, balanced meals low in saturated fat and salt.
Research into omega 3s (the good fats in oily fish) as being good for heart health looks promising. Omega 3s are best consumed from your dinner plate, but supplements can be a great alternative. Talk to your Life Pharmacy or Unichem Pharmacist about fish oil efficacy.
Glass-half-full types are partially protected from heart disease by their positive attitude, Canadian research shows. In fact, the happiest people are up to 22% less likely to develop heart troubles while those with chronic depression have an above average risk.
Know Your Genes
If you have a parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle who had a heart problem before they turned 65 you need to take extra care. Start with a free Heart Health Check at your local Unichem or Life Pharmacy or make an appointment to talk to your doctor.
Quit smoking and follow a healthy eating plan to avoid developing diabetes. “Diabetes is a potent cause of heart disease,” says Dr Devlin.
A basic Heart Health Check, including blood pressure, is FREE this month at Unichem and Life Pharmacy or make an appointment to see your doctor.