You can dramatically reduce your chances of heart disease with a few easy lifestyle changes. We tell you how.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes all diseases and conditions of the heart and blood vessels, is more common than you think, and the statistics in Australia are a stark reminder of just how serious the situation is.

According to data from the 2007/08 National Health Survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, an estimated 17% of the Australian population (3.4 million people) had a cardiovascular disease – with a gap of just 2% between males (15%) and females (17%).

Did you know?

    • Between 2007/08, an estimated 3.4 million (1 in 6) Australians had CVD.

    • 46,000 (1 in 3) CVD-related deaths were recorded in 2009.

    • For the period 2009-2010, some 482,000 hospitalisations were due to CVD.

    • 48% of all CVD-related hospitalisations were for people aged 70 and over.

    • In 2009, there were 3 in 5 people over 40 who survived a heart attack.

    • 1.3 times as many indigenous Australians as non-indigenous Australians had CVD during 2004/05.

The five leading causes of cardiovascular disease are stress, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure (“hypertension”).

However, there are some people who may be at increased risk because a sibling, grandparent, parent or cousin has heart disease. In other words, hereditary factors are at play. And yet, even with a strong predisposition to heart disease, either as a result of your genes or from leading an unhealthy lifestyle, you can still cut your chances of becoming a statistic.

Take action
Use the following guide to limit your chances of developing future heart problems:

    • Quit smoking the use of any kind of tobacco is a significant risk factor for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries, which ultimately can lead to a heart attack.

    • Get physical – just 30 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to drastically reduce your chances of developing heart disease. It’s also a great way to control your weight.

    • Eat right ditch the fast food and deep-fried goodies. Replace a diet laced with junk food with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which you can find online, or a Mediterranean eating plan.

    • Get screened – knowing your numbers can make a world of difference. Early detection is your best defense, since it allows you more time to make lifestyle changes.

    • Sleep it off – lack of sleep leaves you at risk for obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. Aim for eight hours a night.

REMEMBER: Shortness of breath, fainting spells or chest pains should be taken seriously. These could be a sign of heart problems – see a doctor about it as soon as you can.


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