Heart healthy living is an all-encompassing and lifelong journey, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel hard or like a burden. At Heart Health and Fitness, we truly believe that heart healthy living can be easy, simple and fun. Just like the buildings in ancient Rome, pillars must be strong to hold up important structures so that they last for many many years to come. Withstanding everything that may be thrown their way. Ultimately, when it comes to heart health, there are 3 key pillars:
Each pillar is independently linked with the development and progression of heart disease. It is therefore essential that you make each pillar as strong as possible in order to keep your heart strong and helping you live for as long as possible. Achieving this doesn’t have to be complicated but if you need a little extra guidance to get you started, don’t be afraid to ask for some help. This can be hardest, yet most valuable, thing you will do on your journey to a heart healthy lifestyle.
They key thing with exercise is to move more and sit less. That’s it! If you want a little more guidance or if you’re ready to take the next step, let’s talk about the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines.
The Guidelines recommend all adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise plus 2-3 strength training sessions per week.
Aerobic exercise is any large muscle, rhythmic movement such as walking, swimming, cycling or dancing. How you accumulate the 150 minutes per week is completely up to you. Moderate intensity means you are working hard enough to notice an increase in your breathing and heart rate, but you’re still able to hold a conversation.
Alternatively, you can focus on accumulating steps. Now, there’s no magic number according to science (although a lot of people will use 10,000 steps per day). The best thing you can do is track the number of steps you complete each day for 1 week, then try to increase for 1,000 steps per day. Walking an additional 1,000 steps per day can help lower your risk of all-cause mortality by 6 – 36%, and heart disease progression and mortality by 5 – 21% [Reference 1].
TRY: walking with a friend or join a dancing group
Strength training exercises are things like lifting weights (either in a gym or bags of potting mix or water bottles at home), using resistance bands or your body weight. They key is to challenge your muscles to lift a weight you consider challenging.
The simple message: eat more whole foods (especially fruits and vegetables) and less processed foods. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend enjoying a wide variety of nutritious foods from the 5 food groups every day:
- Vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes / beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and / or their alternatives
The other part of this, is reducing processed and unhealthy snacks as well as limiting salt intake (unless your cardiologist has specifically advised you of otherwise). The issue with too much salt is that it encourages our bodies to hold onto water which can increase our blood pressure, which we know isn’t good for your hearts. Having high blood pressure over long periods of time can also increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke [Reference 2 & Reference 3].
TRY: adding a tin of four bean mix (choose the no added salt) to salads, stir fries, pasta and rice dishes to get more vegetables into your day
Looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Anxiety and depression are common in people with heart disease but that doesn’t mean you just accept it. Regular exercise, staying connected and practising gratefulness are easy ways to maintain good mental health.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression (or both), ask your GP about getting some help. A trained psychologist or counsellor can help you find strategies to manage your anxiety, depression or stress. Or you can call LifeLine WA on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
TRY: thinking of 1 -3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day (no matter how small)
There are many ways to improve the strength of your pillars and, just like your muscles, the more you work them the stronger they will become. If you get bored with or don’t like a particular strategy, try another one.
Let us know on Facebook what strategies you use to keep your heart healthy pillars strong.
Still unsure where to start? Contact us to chat about your options and we can guide you on the right (easy, simple and fun) path.
Need help or guidance? Book in for a one-on-one consultation with us to find out what’s best for you and your health.
Can’t get to us? Read our Telehealth Blog to find out if this option suits you better.