Tips to manage your heart disease

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Managing heart and blood vessel disease (aka cardiovascular disease) can be challenging. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke. But small changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference to your health and help lower your risk.

Here are some tips to help you manage your condition:

Tip 1: Be active

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart—and your health in general.

Recommendations vary depending on your age and overall health and doing some exercise is better than doing none at all. The Department of Health recommends the following:

  • If you’re 64 years or younger, aim for 150 – 300 minutes of ‘moderate intensity’ exercise each week or 75 – 150 minutes of ‘vigorous intensity’ exercise each week.
  • If you’re 65 years or older, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday—but remember even increasing your physical activity a little will have a positive impact on your health. If you’re already doing more than 30 minutes of exercise daily, keep it up.

Try to be as consistent as you can—joining a group or finding someone to exercise with can help. If you haven’t exercised in a while, make sure to start slow and build up—and see your doctor for specific advice before you start.

Tip 2: Eat well

What you eat and drink has a big impact on your heart health. For details of a balanced diet, check out . Your GP can refer you to a dietitian to help you develop a nutrition plan for your specific needs.

A few tips to keep your heart healthy:

  • Eat more fruit and veggies
  • Aim for a low salt diet—reducing sodium (salt) in your diet can lower your blood pressure. Cut down on processed foods, look for ‘No added salt’ or ‘Low salt’ on packaging, and check labels and choose products that have less than 400 mg of sodium per 100 grams. Food with less than 120 mg sodium per 100 grams is best.
  • Cut down on saturated fats such as butter or coconut oil and trans fats found in foods that have partially hydrogenated vegetable oils/fats (often found in processed foods including deep fried and baked biscuits, pastries and cakes).

Tip 3: Manage your weight

If you’re overweight, losing 5 – 10% of your bodyweight can make a real difference to your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and improve your overall health.

Tip 4: Quit smoking

Smoking dramatically increases your risk of heart and blood vessel disease, heart attack and stroke, among other health problems. If you smoke, contact quit or talk to your doctor for help to quit.

Tip 5: Limit alcohol

When it comes to drinking, keep your alcohol intake to two or less standard drinks per day to reduce your risk of heart problems. You should also try to have at least two alcohol free days each week.

Tip 6: Understand your meds

If you have heart disease, you’ll likely be prescribed medicines to help control your blood pressure, cholesterol and other risk factors for a heart attack. Let your doctor know if you experience side effects or have any concerns.

Tip 7: Know the warning signs

One of the ways to manage your heart disease well is being able to spot early symptoms of a problem before they get worse—and knowing what to do to get things back on track—or when to get urgent help. Learn more about the signs of heart attack and stroke, and tips for what to do if you experience them.

**How well are you managing your heart disease? Click here **for a checklist to find out.