Manage your condition: Heart Disease (Part 1 - Prevention)
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is a chronic condition where the coronary arteries around the heart supply insufficient blood to the heart muscle, meaning insufficient oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the heart. This is almost always due to atheroma, or fatty deposits in the blood vessel.
There are risk factors contributing to CHD that are not in our control, such as genetics, age, family history and ethnicity. There are however risk factors that contribute to CHD that are within our control and can be reduced through lifestyle changes. These include regular physical activity, a balanced diet, not smoking and non excessive alcohol consumption. It is estimated that 6% of CHD worldwide is due to physical inactivity and lack of regular exercise.
Prevention Strategies for higher risk people
Maintain a healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure is a huge risk factor for CHD and should be regularly monitored in those with higher risk for CHD. Blood pressure is maintained through diet, regular physical activity, managed stress levels and limiting alcohol consumption.
Keep cholesterol and triglycerides under control. High levels of cholesterol can clog the arteries increasing risk of a cardiac event including heart attack. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. A high triglyceride level combined with high cholesterol is associated with the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. This is managed through eating a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, weight management and managing stress. In some instances, medications are also needed alongside to reduce cholesterol levels.
Having a regular exercise routine will help to strengthen the heart muscle, improve blood and nutrient circulation to the body, maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, control cholesterol levels and assist in regulating sleep patterns.
Managing stress. When we are under stress we are likely to reach for unhealthy foods, skip our exercise or resort to drinking more alcohol. Stress management can aid our sleep quality, digestive functioning and overall well being.
Get enough sleep. When we sleep our bodies are repairing cells, restoring energy and releasing important hormones and proteins. Good quality sleep is crucial for heart health.
Eat a balanced diet. Eating from different food groups (including vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and calcium) is essential for heart health. Eating a balanced diet supports normal functioning of blood glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rhythm, vascular health and blood cholesterol levels.
Exercise for heart health
Cycling, swimming and walking are some examples of cardio exercise. It is recommended to do at least 30 to 60 min of moderate exercise daily. More vigorous exercise reduces exercise time. Cardio activity uses your heart and lungs for a long period of time. It strengthens the heart muscle, improves your muscles use of oxygen by improving blood flow to the whole body.
Light weights and resistance training builds muscle, reduces body fat, increases glucose metabolism and lowers resting blood pressure. Muscles need time to rest in between workouts so it is suggested to do strength training 2- 3 times per week.
What to do next
- If you are at higher risk of developing heart disease, start with an assessment with an exercise physiologist to develop a safe and effective individualised exercise and lifestyle program to reduce risk factors and prevent the onset of heart disease.
- Eat a balanced diet, you can seek support from a dietitian. @reednutrition
- Start slow and increase physical activity intensity in consultation to your EP