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Prevention of Heart disease

While it is true that a significant percentage of coronary heart disease is genetically influenced, a large percentage of heart attacks are preventable, and are due to lifestyle factors and the influence of other diseases and conditions. Changing these lifestyle and disease factors has been shown time and again to make a significant difference to the risk of developing heart disease. 

The tips below are known to decrease and delay your risk of developing heart disease in the future, and increase your life expectancy. Even if you have already developed heart disease, vascular disease or stroke, following the advice below will decrease your chances of having a repeat cardiac or vascular event.

Decrease calorie intake, including decreasing portion sizes of meals, eliminating or minimizing the consumption of sugary drinks (soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks), decrease alcohol consumption.

 Change your diet. Decrease fatty foods, fried foods, take away foods, and swap them for increased fresh fruit and vegetables, and wholegrain foods like whole-meal bread and oats. Visit: http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/Pages/default.aspx for healthy eating tips.

No smoking. Do not start smoking, and  if you do smoke, even just a few cigarettes per day, quit. Speak to your local GP, if you require support with smoking cessation. Call the Quitline on 137848. Visit: www.quitnow.gov.au.

 No salt. Do not consume salty foods (most packeted snack foods including potato chips, salted nuts). Do not add salt to your food. Added salt increases blood pressure and damages your kidneys over time.

 Move your body. Ditch the TV, or at least put a treadmill in front of it! Be physically active. Do a moderate physical activity at least 1 hour per day. Simple walking, swimming and bike riding all count. Supplement your aerobic exercise with some weight training three days per week. Physical activity is beneficial at all ages- you are never too old or too young, or too busy.

Know your cholesterol profile. Ask your GP to assesss your cardiovascular risk, and as part of this, assess your blood lipid profile with a simple fasting blood test. Knowledge is power- the earlier you treat a high cholesterol level, the lower your risk of heart disease will be. Effective treatment of a high cholesterol level includes healthy diet modification and sometimes requires medication to lower LDL cholesterol.

 Whats your BP? Ask your GP to screen you for high blood pressure. Everyone should see heir GP at least once per year, and blood pressure screening and surveillance should be part of that examination. If you do have high blood pressure, ask your GP if your condition is properly treated and if you are consistently at target blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure normal decreases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

Lose weight , if you are overweight. Being overweight is independently related to your risk of heart disease with or without the presence of other risk factors, and increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure.

Diabetes- are you at risk? Ask your GP if you are at risk for diabetes. The earlier you know that you are at risk, the earlier treatment and preventive measures can be started to decrease your risk of heart disease. If you have diabetes, ask if your condition is optimally treated, revisit measures to better control your blood sugar level with your GP.

 Stress and depression management is important in the prevention of heart disease. Increased levels of harmful stress, increase stress hormones in the body, affect sleep and diet patterns, and affect our relationships with others. These factors in turn increase the risk of heart and vascular disease. Studies have shown that some people who have depression, are socially isolated and/or do not have quality social support, are at greater risk of developing heart disease. Depression can be treated with medical and non-medical therapies. If you think that you have depression, talking to your health professional is the best first step.

 For more information about depression, visit the beyondblue website.  http://www.beyondblue.org.au