In Australia, heart disease is a major cause of death. Every 18 minutes, it claims a life—on average, 79 lives every day, according to The Heart Foundation.
But there’s a silver lining: most of these heart issues can be prevented by making some small changes to your lifestyle. With World Heart Day approaching on September 29th, dedicated to spreading awareness about heart health, Starts at 60 sat down with Dr. Ross Walker to get his tips on keeping your heart in good shape.
Smoking significantly increases the chances of heart disease, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
However, there’s encouraging news from a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): heavy smokers who quit can see their heart disease risk drop within just five years. This underscores the rapid and beneficial effects of quitting smoking on heart health.
“If you smoke, quitting is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart,” Walker says.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your heart health, too. Dr Walker encourages you to practice good habits in the bedroom. If possible, try to maintain a cool room temperature and avoid bright light from electronic devices. Too much exposure to night-time blue light (through smart phones, tablets, and computers), can lead to a number of negative health outcomes, including difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and heart disease.
“Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, following the same pattern, whether it’s a bath, some time reading, or listening to relaxing music,” Walker advises.
Eating a varied diet of healthy foods can also help ward off heart disease. Walker says people looking to improve their heart health should switch to a Mediterranean diet — a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, wheat, and rice, but limited in red meats and poultry.
Recent studies have shown that incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet offers a number of health benefits including a lower risk of heart disease.
Walker recommends replacing lean meats like poultry and fish with vegetarian options, such as tofu, quinoa, mushrooms, lentils, chickpeas and beans.
“Other vegetables that have an excellent source of protein are artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, corn, potatoes, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes and turnip greens,” he says.
“The benefits of exercise stretch far beyond your waistband — exercise actually strengthens your heart,” Walker says.
Regular exercise offers numerous heart-healthy benefits. It lowers the risk of heart disease, helps control blood pressure, improves blood circulation, and reduces the chance of blood clots. Aim for just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
If you’re new to exercise, start with small changes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for brisk walks, or enjoy some dancing. These easy steps can kickstart your journey to better heart health and overall well-being.
According to Walker, adding dietary supplements to your daily routine is a good idea. Supplements can fill in the gaps when you’re not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals, especially if you have health conditions like cancer, diabetes, or hypertension that can lead to deficiencies.
Walker specifically recommends ubiquinol, which is the active form of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), for promoting and maintaining a healthy heart. You can also find ubiquinol in foods like broccoli, citrus fruits, various nuts (like pistachios, peanuts, and sesame seeds), as well as fish like tuna, salmon, and trout. It’s also present in meats like pork and chicken, and even in avocados. This means you have options when it comes to getting this heart-healthy nutrient, whether through supplements or the foods you eat.
It may come as a pleasant surprise, but the pursuit of happiness extends far beyond the realm of personal joy; it has the power to serve as a veritable lifeline.
A comprehensive study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed a compelling link between a sunny disposition and a significantly diminished risk of heart disease. This revelation underscores the profound interconnectedness of emotional well-being and longevity.
In essence, cultivating a positive outlook not only enriches your daily existence but also fortifies the very foundation of your health, potentially granting you the gift of a longer and healthier life.
This article was originally published on February 6, 2020, and has been updated on September 26, 2023.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.