Heart health: how to calculate it and why you should – by Sarah Rhodes
Every 90 mins a New Zealander dies of heart disease, that’s 125 people a week, giving heart disease the dubious accolade of being the leading cause of death in New Zealand. Many of these deaths are avoidable. The ‘your heart forecast tool’ is a quick and easy tool which allows all of us to determine our heart age and risk of heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years. To use it accurately it is best to know your blood pressure and cholesterol ratio.
Why not check yourself out at: www.knowyournumbers.org.nz
If you do find you are in the moderate or high category, there are actions you can take to help reduce your risk. These include quitting smoking, eating right to support good heart health, and incorporating more physical activity into your day. These might seem like big steps but there is plenty of support available. Check out the simple and delicious recipes on the Heart Foundation website.
For ideas regarding physical activity, start with a small increase in the distance you walk and build up gradually. Research shows that some physical activity is better than none. Brisk walking for a total of 150 minutes a week (a 30-minute walk, 5 times a week) reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and other adverse health outcomes.
Although concern about overdoing it and getting injured, or having a heart attack, can be a barrier to becoming more physically active, studies demonstrate that the benefits of being physically active far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes. If you are unsure about how to get started, speak to your GP or contact a local physiotherapist for advice.
Sarah Rhodes is a Clinical Educator at Otago University.
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