February is Heart Research Month, a month where all Australians are encouraged to make their heart health a priority and proactively participate in the fight against heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a collective term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. The term commonly includes diseases such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke. Many of these conditions can be life-threatening.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in Australia. Despite remarkable advances, heart disease is still the #1 killer of Australians, affecting 2 out of 3 families.
Your heart is the engine that runs your body. If it is not kept in optimal condition then it can easily stall, fail, or misfire resulting in the entire body coming to a catastrophic failure. The heart is in fact the most important organ in the human body, even greater than the brain. The indispensability of the human heart means that you have to take every opportunity to keep it as healthy as possible.
Risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease, Heart Disease and Heart Attacks include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol and smoking.
A great choice that you can make for heart health is to get physically active. Your heart is a muscle which means that you have the opportunity to make it stronger through physical training. This doesn’t mean that you need to train to run a marathon, but you can simply start by increasing the effort required to do your normal daily activity. Park further away in the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, and choose to stand rather than sit on your early morning commute on the bus/train. Every extra step you take is a small increase in the strength of your heart muscle that you would not have had otherwise. The stronger your heart is, the less likely you are to suffer from heart disease.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet (along with physical activity) in addition to not smoking or consuming alcohol – is the foundation of good health. Healthy eating includes consuming good food including high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and water, while avidly avoiding processed foods and saturated fats. Eating in this manner helps you maintain your body’s everyday functions, promotes optimal body weight and can assist in disease prevention.
Control Your Cholesterol
There is no healthy way to completely eliminate the bad cholesterol from your blood stream. Too much of this substance can result in clogs being formed and restricting blood flow to and from the heart. High LDL cholesterol can be found in red meats, fatty dairy, and saturated fats. While you are restricting these foods (not necessarily eliminating) you also want to increase foods that are high in good cholesterol (HDL) healthy fats. Your body will also increase production of healthy HDL as a result of your increase in activity.
Know Your Body
It is difficult to make the right decisions for your unique body if you don’t have all of the information about your situation. A significant number of people in the developed world have high blood pressure, but many of those who do, don’t even know that they have it. You can start to turn this around by visiting your local GP and finding out what your blood pressure is and what a healthy weight is for someone of your age, height, and gender.
Know your body, get active, eat healthier and have regular health checks and you will have begun the life long process of making your heart ready to give you the longest life it possibly can.