You can beat heartbreak this World Heart Day.
Across the world, cardiovascular disease (disorders of the heart and blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke, heart defects at birth) exacts a heavy toll, taking almost 18 million lives in 2016. Every day in Australia, around 115 people die from cardiovascular disease (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019).
The Heart Foundation fights for all Australian hearts: we know the pain that families, loved ones and friends face when they lose someone to heart disease; we know the impact of living with heart disease, and the daily challenges that come with this.
That’s we are backing the World Heart Day message, it’s time to “use heart to beat cardiovascular disease
This World Heart Day, it’s time to beat heartbreak
Tuesday, 29 September is World Heart Day; this year, people around the world are being encouraged to:
Use heart to beat cardiovascular disease
Now is the time to start caring about cardiovascular disease, and the ways you can act to protect your heart.
The biggest contributors to the burden of heart and blood vessel disease are:
- High blood pressure
- Poor diet
- High cholesterol
You can learn more about how these factors impact on your heart healthy by completing the Heart Foundation’s online Heart Age Calculator and by seeing your regular doctor for a Heart Health Check. During your Heart Health Check, your doctor will:
- Check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Discuss your health history and your lifestyle, including your diet, how physically active you are, if you smoke or drink alcohol if you maintain a healthy weight and details of your family medical history
- Use this information to assess your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years
- Make a plan to manage your risk factors for developing heart disease and help you keep on top of your heart health
- Prescribe medication to help lower your heart health risk, if needed
- Refer you to other services and supports, such as seeing a dietician or joining a walking group
For many of us, heart disease risk factors can be addressed with small lifestyle changes; in just a few steps, you can use heart to beat heartbreak by:
Eating healthy to protect your heart
Eating a poor diet is the largest contributor to the burden of cardiovascular disease.
World Heart Day is your chance to think about the simple changes you can make to your diet to help protect your heart and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
There’s no “one size fits all” heart-healthy diet; instead, it’s important to focus on the different foods that you regularly eat over days, weeks and months.
Heart-healthy eating isn’t boring or tasteless; instead, a healthy diet is packed with colour, flavour and variety. Here are some tips for eating foods that are great for your heart health. Eating this way can help to reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as improve your overall health. To enjoy a heart-healthy approach to eating:
- eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrains
- eat minimally processed foods
- choose a variety of protein-rich foods, including fish and seafood, legumes (such as beans, lentils and chickpeas), nuts and seeds, eggs and chicken, unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese
- use healthy fats and oils, including olive, canola, sunflower, peanut and soybean oil. You can also choose foods that contain heart-healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, unsalted nuts and seeds
- add herbs and spices for bursts of flavour
Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease. While your body uses cholesterol to build cells, too much can put you at risk of heart disease. Of the two most common types of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol is the one that is bad for your heart health. LDL cholesterol can stick to the walls of arteries and cause a fatty build-up called plaque. Too much plaque leads to blockages that prevent blood from flowing properly to the heart. To discover if your cholesterol is too high, speak with your GP, and get a Heart Health Check (see above).
Eating a heart-healthy diet can help to manage your cholesterol. Foods that help to lower your bad cholesterol include fatty fish, oats, nuts, wholegrains, beans and vegetable oils.
Exercising can also help to lower your bad cholesterol; doing physical activity can help to raise your level of HDL cholesterol, also known as good cholesterol. This type of cholesterol absorbs bad cholesterol and takes it back to your liver; it is then flushed from your body.
Quitting smoking and e-cigarettes
Smokers have more heart attacks, strokes and angina (chest pain or discomfort caused when your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood) than non-smokers. They also experience these impacts at a much younger age.
There is no safe level of tobacco smoking. When you smoke, you are:
- Five times more likely to die of peripheral arterial disease (where narrowed blood vessels cause less blood to flow to your limbs)
- Four times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke)
- Three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death (a sudden lack of heart activity)
- Two times more likely to have a heart attack
The Heart Foundation does not support smoking e-cigarettes: research on their safety has identified risks for heart health. To get help to quit smoking, call Quitline on 13 7848, follow the Heart Foundation Quit smoking action plan and speak with your doctor. Sticking to safe alcohol guidelines
Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 1 in 5 people report that they are drinking more alcohol since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia.
People living with heart disease or relevant risk factors, such as high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, coronary heart disease or atrial fibrillation should speak with their GP about drinking alcohol and what level of drinking is safe for them and their heart condition. It is also important to speak with your doctor about possible interactions between alcohol and medications you take, including medications for heart disease or a heart condition.
If you have a condition such as high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, coronary heart disease, or atrial fibrillation, you may need to drink less than recommended levels.
Getting plenty of exercise
Not doing enough exercise is a major contributor to heart disease. Did you know that nearly 60% of adults are not active enough for good heart health?
How much exercise should you do each day to look after your heart? Australia’s physical activity guidelines recommend that adults should:
- Be active on most, preferably all, days of the week
- Get between150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week
- Do muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week
If you’re not getting enough exercise, it’s best to start with achievable goals and work your way up to meeting these targets. Start off by going for a short, brisk walk each morning. Once you’re comfortable with the distance, go a little further. Walking is the best medicine, plus, it’s a low-impact activity that we can all do; so, it’s a great place to start to improve your heart health. Find out more about how joining a Heart Foundation Walking group can help you to make great connections, keep fit and look after your heart health.
You’re not alone on World Heart Day The Heart Foundation is working towards an Australia free of heart disease. On World Heart Day and every day, we support people to prevent heart disease. We are there for the 580,000 Australians who are living with the challenges of heart disease (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018) and their families.
To learn more about preventing heart disease, managing your heart health or about specific heart conditions, explore our website. You can also get support and heart health information by calling the Heart Foundation Helpline; all calls are answered by medical professionals, and the Helpline is available by calling 13 11 12 during business hours.
Your regular GP is also a vital member of your heart health team. Seeing your GP for a regular check-up is important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, many GPs are seeing patients by telehealth. Ask your doctor about how to make an appointment to discuss your heart health. The Heart Foundation recommends that anyone 45 years and over or 30 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have a regular Heart Health Check with their doctor.
Please see You can beat heartbreak this World Heart Day. (heartfoundation.org.au) and your GP.