Steps to a healthy heart

TAL General Manager Health Services

Dr Priya Chagan

Financial advisers can play a key role in helping clients in vulnerable circumstances, and often consider the health and wellbeing of their clients as part of providing an advice service.

As advisers consider the health and wellbeing of their clients, it’s equally important that they remember to take the opportunity to also focus on their own health, including understanding how to make their heart health a priority.

National Heart Week runs from 2-8 May and aims to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining heart health and preventative heart health checks.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest health issues facing Australians today, but did you know there’s some simple steps you can take to help look after your heart?  

Dr Priya Chagan, General Manager Health Services at TAL shares information on cardiovascular disease and ways advisers can look after their heart health, and encourage the same for their clients. 

1. Diet Matters

A poor diet is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. A diet that’s good for your heart, isn’t about strict, restrictive eating but making small positive changes that you can stick to long term.

Key things to include in your diet for good heart health:

• Plenty of fruits and vegetables
• Wholegrains
• A variety of healthy protein, especially oily fish, legumes, nuts and seeds
• Healthy fat choices like avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
• Add herbs and spices to cooking for flavour instead of salt

Some of the things you should avoid or keep to a minimum include:

• Alcohol
• Processed foods
• Red meat
• Fried foods
• Foods high in salt or sugar

2. Stay active

Regular exercise reduces heart disease risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol. You don’t have to slog it out at the gym. Instead, choose activities that you enjoy that will make it easier to stick to an active lifestyle. Even incidental exercise can really make a difference. Choose to take the stairs instead of the lift or park your car a little further away so you can get in some extra steps. Before you know it, staying active will be a regular part of your daily routine.

3. Be smoke-free

Smoking damages blood vessels and increases your likelihood of dying from a heart attack or stroke. The sooner you quit, the better. Your risk of heart attack and stroke decreases almost straight away so there’s no time like the present to take a major step to better heart health. If you’re a smoker and need help to quit, talk to your GP or contact the Quitline for support.

4. Manage your cholesterol and blood pressure

Maintaining your cholesterol and blood pressure within healthy levels is an important contributor to heart health. You can have high blood pressure and cholesterol without having any obvious symptoms, so it’s important to see your doctor for a check-up. The good news is that a healthy lifestyle that promotes heart health, also has a positive affect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

5. Watch for the signs

Warning signs for heart attack can vary from person to person. It’s important to be aware of the common signs so that you can get help fast. Acting quickly can reduce the damage to your heart and increase chances of survival1. Some common heart attack warning signs are2:

• Chest discomfort or pain (angina). This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, aching, numbness, squeezing, fullness or pain in your chest. This discomfort can spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back. It can last for several minutes or come and go;
• Dizzyness, light-headedness, feeling faint or feeling anxious;
• Nausea indigestion, vomiting;
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – with or without chest discomfort; and
• Sweating or a cold sweat.

If you or someone around you experiences these symptoms, call triple zero (000) right away and ask for an ambulance. If you’d like to find out more about Heart Health Checks, visit the Heart Foundation website or speak with your GP.
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