With an Australian dying every 10 minutes from cardiovascular disease, the National Heart Foundation of Australia's Heart Week 2004 (2 - 8 May) is encouraging you to make small changes to your eating and physical activity habits that will make a big difference to your heart health.
Enjoying regular physical activity and healthy eating are important for heart health as well as achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. This message is timely as more than half of the Australian adult population are either overweight or obese, which increases their risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and Type 2 diabetes.Let's get physical
Being physically active is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. At any age, physical activity provides a range of health benefits. And the good news is activity doesn't have to be vigorous - moderate activity, such as brisk walking, is great for your health.
For general heart health benefits, the Heart Foundation recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on all or most days of the week. This activity can be accumulated in bouts of ten minutes or more if this is more convenient. It's really about finding ways to incorporate physical activity into everyday living.
Research has confirmed that it is never too late to start being active and people who do no physical activity are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease than those who do regular, moderate physical activity. Regardless of your age, the health benefits start to occur as soon as you take up regular physical activity.People who are regularly physically active tend to:
Practical tips to help you get active:
- have improved long-term health
- be less likely to have a heart attack
- feel more energetic
- manage their weight better
- have a healthier blood cholesterol level
- have lower blood pressure
- have stronger bones and muscles (less osteoporosis)
- recover better from a heart attack (if this has occurred)
- feel more confident, happy, relaxed and are able to sleep better.
Enjoy healthy eating
- Choose activities you enjoy; in that way, you will be more likely to keep doing them.
- Vary the type of activity you do, so that you don't become bored with the one thing, therefore increasing your chance of maintaining your activity throughout life.
- Set yourself small, realistic goals for your activity. For example, "Tomorrow I'll start with a 15-minute walk to the train station rather than driving".
- Purchase a pedometer and set yourself targets to work towards. This will help to keep you motivated and will give you a sense of achievement.
- Set aside certain times of the day or one period that suits you to be active - you're more likely to be committed if you schedule it into your routine.
- Be active with friends or your family. This way you can motivate and encourage one-another and have fun at the same time.
- Join a club or a group, and enjoy some physical activity while socialising. The social support you may gain from being active with others can also improve your health.
- Combine regular physical activity with healthy eating to look after your heart health and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Healthy eating is not "dieting" and is not about following strict rules. Instead the emphasis is on enjoyment and nourishment. In summary, healthy eating is about choosing:
- mainly plant-based foods - vegetables, fruit and legumes (dried peas, dried beans and lentil and grain based foods (preferably wholegrain) such as bread, pasta, noodles and rice
- moderate amounts of lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and reduced fat dairy products, and
- moderate amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils and fats.
For further information and practical tips about being more active and healthy eating, contact the Heart Foundation's national information service Heartline 1300 36 27 87
or visit Heartsite www.heartfoundation.com.au