Tips for a healthy heart and health

Dr David Jankelow - a cardiologist and president-elect of the Johannesburg branch of the South African Heart Association - says a healthy lifestyle is as important as medicine when it comes to taking care of your heart and arteries. "A lot of the diseases we see - coronary artery disease, heart attacks, people who've had bypasses, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol - need a lifestyle change," says Jankelow.

Eat healthy food

Not following a healthy lifestyle, high blood pressure and high cholesterol cause up to 80% of heart disease and stroke.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa recommends the following guidelines for a healthy eating plan:

  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Consume high-fibre wholegrain food instead of refined cereals
  • Choose healthy fats and oils, for example canola or olive oil, avocado and fish
  • Eat food that contains Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Drink clean water and unsweetened tea or coffee.
  • Reduce your portion sizes, especially when it comes to fatty, starchy and sugary food.
  • Cut down on food with unhealthy fats and added sugars, sodium and salt.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol.

For more information on eating right for your heart and artery health as well as heart attack and stroke, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation's website.

Move to the beat

There's nothing like exercising to get your blood pumping, which is very good for your heart and health. Keeping the blood flowing keeps your arteries healthy and help prevent stroke.

Strike a balance between deskwork and exercise:

  • Ask your GP before starting with an exercise plan
  • Start slow and then work your way up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week
  • Walk, play, dance or do housework, they all count
  • Be more active every day and make small changes like taking the stairs or walking instead of driving.

Don't smoke

If you don't smoke, don't start. If you smoke or vape, your brain and your heart would like you to smoke less or quit. If you want to quit smoking, speak to your GP.

When you quit:

  • Your risk of coronary heart disease goes down significantly after two years
  • Your risk of cardiovascular disease is the same as a non-smoker's after 15 years
  • You look after other people's hearts since second-hand smoke can also cause heart disease in non-smokers.
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