Staying on top of your heart health can be as easy as visiting your doctor for check-ups and health screening along with a few small lifestyle changes.
Here are some simple things you can do to take care of your heart and keep an eye out for any problems.
Get a free Heart Health Check
As we get older, our risk of heart conditions and heart disease increases. Some risk factors for heart disease may also be silently increasing in the background, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A Heart Health Check is a 20-minute check-up with your doctor to assess your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam which includes a blood pressure reading, as well as chat with you about your lifestyle and medical and family history. Lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity levels are important to keep an eye on, as these can have a huge impact on heart health but can also potentially be improved.
Gathering this information will help your doctor assess your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. They can then determine a plan of action if necessary or refer you to another healthcare professional or program for further support.
Heart Health Checks are also not a one-off. Having regular checks will help you keep on top of your risk of heart disease and help with early identification of any issues or changes you can make to decrease your risk.
These checks are covered by Medicare and are free at practices that bulk bill this service, for all adults aged 45 years and over and Indigenous Australians aged 30 years and over.
Swap this for that
Diet plays a major role in your overall health and wellbeing, but making healthy changes to your diet doesn’t have to mean cutting out all the foods you enjoy. Even the smallest changes can add up to make a big difference to your health.
Start with some simple heart-healthy swaps like swapping out:
- White bread or pasta for the wholegrain versions
- Salt on your food for herbs and spices like rosemary and basil
- Sugar on your cereal for fresh fruit
- Regular cheese for the light version
- Butter for a reduced-fat spread or a smear of avocado
- Creamy or cheesy sauces on meals for tomato or vegetable-based sauces
- Mayonnaise for hummus
- Sugary drinks for a flavoured tea or water
Know your numbers
Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar and total cholesterol levels in check is key for good heart health. But you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so finding out what your numbers are is the first step. Unhealthy levels of these may not show themselves through symptoms. Your doctor can advise you of the optimal levels for people of your sex and age group, as well as conduct the tests to find your individual results.
In between doctor visits, you can monitor some of these levels through easy-to-use devices like blood pressure monitors that can be purchased for home use. Keeping a record of your results and showing these to your doctor will provide them with information they need to help you stay on top of your risk for heart disease and other health issues.