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Five Steps for a Healthy Heart

1. Reinforce your heart-healthy habits - Aim for a balanced diet (plant based and unprocessed foods are good) with 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Reduce salt aiming for less than 6g/day (less than 1 level teaspoon) and be aware of ‘hidden’ salt in processed foods. Stay hydrated. Don’t smoke - if you do smoke, try switching to Vape as a first step to quitting for good. Try to get enough sleep (aim for 7-8 hours a night).

2. Know your numbers - The usual suspects for heart disease include cholesterol, blood sugar (glucose and HbA1c), blood pressure, body mass index (height and weight), hip to waist ratio, etc. Digital devices you can wear (activity trackers, smart-watches) and devices to measure BP, blood sugar, heart rate and rhythm can help you track your health and take steps to improve it. Discuss your numbers with your doctor and set realistic goals - 10% weight loss can reduce blood pressure, improve your cholesterol profile, and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

3. As a woman your heart is special - You are probably so busy looking after everyone else that your own well-being and health tends to come last. But you need to make your heart’s health a priority. In addition to the usual risk factors (high BP, diabetes, smoking, etc.) certain risks are unique to women (e.g. menopause, high BP or diabetes in any pregnancy, etc). Lack of sleep, mental stress and depression play a bigger role in developing heart disease in women as compared to men. The symptoms of heart disease are often different in women and men. Take the time, and talk with your doctor - you won’t know your risk if you don’t get checked.

4. Walk ! - "Exercise more" is the mantra for this decade, and what better way than to go for a walk - you already know how, it costs nothing, and you can do it anytime. Walking can strengthen your muscles, burn more calories, and lift your mood. There is no age cut-off for the benefits of walking. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week - it could reduce your risk of high BP, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

5. Be prepared for your checkup - To make the most of your visit to the doctor it is best to go prepared. Write down your top 3 or 4 concerns to discuss. Have a list of your medications (prescription and non-prescription). Have your previous reports with you during your consultation makes for a more productive discussion, and better diagnosis. Share your own numbers and wellness data with your doctor to help set reasonable targets. Don’t take anything for granted - you are still the most valuable repository of your health care record.

Five Steps for a Healthy Heart - - 28 September 2020


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