couple exercising to improve their heart health

Caring for your heart at home

Healthy Eating

We have all heard that a ‘healthy diet’ is important for maintaining good heart health and imperative for those who have suffered a heart event. Visualising what this ‘healthy diet’ is and maintaining it in the longer term is far more difficult.

Healthy eating isn’t about a weight loss diet but rather reviewing the types and quantity of food you consume over a longer period of time. Ensure that your diet includes a wide range of foods with particular focus on fresh, unrefined foods such as lean proteins, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

This doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself with an occasional treat but it should be occasional.

For healthy eating advice, specific to your current situation, please discuss with your Cardiologist.

Other resources to assist you in maintaining a healthy heart: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/heart-health-education/healthy-eating

Exercise

Exercise is important for both maintaining cardiovascular health and restoring health following a cardiovascular event or intervention. When embarking on a new exercise regimen it is important to build gradually. Exercise can help manage your weight, regulate your blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

We encourage you to discuss with your Cardiologist regarding any limitations you should place on your exercise before commencing and whether any further testing is required before starting a new exercise program. Try and build regular physical activity into your standard daily regimen; park further away and walk, take the stairs rather than the lift.

Resources: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/heart-health-education/physical-activity-and-exercise

Smoking Cessation

Smoking increases the deposition of atherosclerotic plaque (cholesterol and inflammatory cells) in the walls of arteries. This increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke or peripheral vascular disease.


Smoking cessation can be very difficult and we are happy to talk about strategies that may lead to success. We also suggest you discuss this with your friends and family to gain their support and your general practitioner to explore possible pharmacological support. Quitline can also be a very helpful resource (13 7848).

Resources: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/recovery-and-support/heart-attack-recovery-quit-smoking

Mental Wellbeing

It is very common for people to notice significant emotional instability and anxiety following a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. This is often called the ‘cardiac blues’ and while in most cases it is momentary in some cases it may lead to clinical depression. Regardless of the severity of any symptoms you may develop, it is important to acknowledge them and find someone you can speak openly with; family, friends or your cardiologist.

Women’s Heart Disease

Women often present with symptoms that vary from what is commonly considered typical. Women are less likely to present with classic central chest pressure radiating to the arm and jaw but may rather present with shortness of breath, back or abdominal pain, lightheadedness or fainting. Women have also, traditionally, delayed their presentation due to failure to recognise their symptoms and failure to prioritise their own health.

In addition, there are some conditions that occur more commonly in females. For example, women are more prone to heart attacks due to a tear in the lining of the blood vessel. This condition is called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). It results in an area of the heart not receiving sufficient blood and oxygen and causes a heart attack.

Pregnancy also poses a unique life event which carries specific cardiovascular risks. This may include exacerbation of existing cardiac disease or the development of new cardiovascular issues such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or heart failure.

All Australian Cardiovascular Specialists Cardiologists are well aware of the cardiac conditions faced by women and able to offer appropriate support, investigation and treatment. In addition, we have a dedicated Women’s Heart Clinic which offers advanced sub-specialist care including that for patients who are pregnant with existing heart disease.

Resources:
https://herheart.org/
https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/conditions/heart-conditions-in-women