Heart Health

25 January 2017

5 ways to a healthy heart

The numbers are scary – according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation heart disease and strokes are the second biggest killers in South Africa after HIV/Aids. Here are five ways to keep your heart healthy and happy.

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Unfortunately, our lifestyles are mostly to blame for having an unhealthy heart – we don’t exercise enough, we overeat, and we smoke and drink too much. Here are five ways to keep your heart on the healthy side.

1. Know your numbers

You’re probably familiar with blood pressure but what do those two numbers actually mean? The number above is your systolic blood pressure (your blood pressure against the artery walls when your heart beats), while the bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure (your blood pressure against the artery walls between heart beats). Aim to keep your heart happy at 120/80 or below. 

• Pre-hypertension: 120-139/80-89
• Hypertension stage 1: 140-159/90-99
• Hypertension stage 2: 160/>100 
If your blood pressure is more than 130/85, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. 

Did you know? 75% of people who have high blood pressure don’t even know they have it. 

Read more: Know your numbers for a healthy heart 

2. Good or bad? 

Although an essential nutrient for your body, too much cholesterol raises your risk of your arteries hardening, which leads to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and know the difference between the good and the bad kind.

Warning bells
• Total cholesterol: 200 or higher
• HDL (good cholesterol): less than 40
• LDL (bad cholesterol): more than 160 – a level of 100 is optimal but aim for as low as possible. 

Did you know? 210 people die from heart disease every day.

Read more: Cholesterol – understanding the figures 

3. Blood sugar

Did you know being overweight or getting too little exercise can lead to type 2 diabetes? And that can in turn cause heart disease or a stroke? Keep your blood sugar in the optimum range by following a healthy lifestyle. 

• Normal fasting blood sugar: 100 or less
• Pre-diabetic: 101-125
• Diabetic: 126 or 

Read more: Assess your blood sugar levels 

4. Get moving!

One of the simplest ways to keep your heart healthy is through exercise. Plus, getting active can also boost your mood and help alleviate stress. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Every bit counts, so take the stairs, park your car further from the office and make phone calls on your cell phone while walking around the office. According the Mayo Clinic, just 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a week can cut your risk of heart disease by half. 

Did you know? 1 in 2 adults and a quarter of all children in South Africa are overweight. 

Read more: Recommended exercise programme for a healthy heart

5. Five a day

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says that healthy eating is more than just nutrients or counting calories – it’s also about the choices we make and how those affect our health. Always include vegetables and fruits in your daily food intake and make smart food choices with less added sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats. Keep those sweet treats for the occasional cheat day. 

Read more:

Cardiac arrest vs heart attack

Why it’s so important to know good fats from bad 

'Spare tyre' worse for your heart than 'love handles'

References:

NHS

Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa

WebMD