5 Heart-healthy lifestyle changes worth making

Globally, more people die as a result of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) each year than from any other cause. That’s according to the World Health Organization, which also states that “17,9 million people die each year from CVDs, an estimated 31% of all deaths worldwide.” But there is good news: Up to 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Here are five ways you can start doing that.

1. Get (and keep) moving

You’ve heard it before but it definitely bears repeating: prioritise physical activity and ensure that you’re getting at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (where you start feeling a little breathless but are still able to hold a conversation) at least five times a week. One of the keys to success is finding something you enjoy whether that’s running, cycling, swimming or dancing. Another is exercising at a time that works for you. And if 30 minutes feels unmanageable in your daily schedule, split the time up into smaller increments. As The Heart Foundation, a US-based heart disease awareness initiative, points out, “If you’re not burning calories, you’re storing them – as fat. Too much of this means higher triglycerides and LDL – both bad for your heart.”

2. Quit smoking (and vaping)

The Heart Foundation also explains that “cigarette smoking may be to blame for one in five cardiovascular disease deaths” and the reason is that “smoking damages blood vessels and heart tissue, lowers good cholesterol (HDL), and contributes to high blood pressure.” While research into the effect of e-cigarettes on our health is still in its infancy, a team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recently conducted a study which compared the hearts of non-smokers, tobacco smokers and e-cigarette smokers during mild exercise. The study found that while the smokers saw less of an increase in blood flow in the heart than the non-smokers, when it came to the vapers, there was no increase at all.  

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) also cites a study which found that “smoking cigarettes decreases the gene expression of 53 genes that play a part in fighting viruses and bacteria. Vaping affects an astonishing 358 of them. What’s scary is that we have no idea what this actually means yet.”

3. Follow a healthy diet

The HSFSA recommends a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, beans and lentils, low fat or fat-free dairy products, high fibre wholegrain starchy foods (wholewheat bread, brown rice, oats, wholewheat pasta and barley), lean protein (fish, eggs, skinless chicken, lean mince and ostrich meat), healthy fats and foods high in omega 3 fats. They also urge people to cut down their consumption of foods containing added sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

Portion control is also advisable to ensure that you stay at a healthy weight because, as The Heart Foundation explains, “Carrying extra weight can raise your blood pressure, elevate your triglycerides, decrease HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, and put you at risk for other serious conditions, like diabetes and cancer.” And diabetes has a strong link to heart disease as these staggering statistics show:

  • At least 68 percent of people age 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease.
  • Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.
Source: www.heart.org

4. Get checked

High blood pressure and cholesterol can have a serious impact on your heart health, so it’s critical that you get tested regularly – especially as you’re unlikely to know whether you’re suffering from either. While you’re at it, get your blood sugar tested and schedule annual check-ups with your GP to make sure your general health is on track.

5. Get enough (good quality) sleep

Given the pace at which we live our lives, most of us look forward to hitting the sack each night. What you may not know, however, is that catching enough shut-eye is vital to the health of your heart – so aim for about eight hours a night.

Are you covered for heart disease?

Serious Illness Cover from Standard Bank’s direct life insurance services pays out a cash lump sum in the event that you suffer a stroke, have a heart attack, are diagnosed with cancer, or require open heart surgery. To find out more, get a quote online or ask one of our customer service agents to call you back.

Frank Financial Services is a juristic representative of the Standard Bank of South Africa an authorised financial services provider (FSP11287). Products are underwritten by Liberty Group Limited.

Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

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