DOCTORS ADVICE: Keeping heart, blood vessels in shape
HEART disease is far too common in Queensland. We all know of or have heard about someone dying from a heart attack and sometimes we wonder how this could have happened? "He or she seemed so fit and well and it seemed to come out of the blue.."
So what can we do to try and prevent early onset of heart and blood vessel damage? Unfortunately you usually do not know that you have risk factors for heart disease because often there are no symptoms to warn you. So Here is my checklist for reducing the risk:
If you smoke, then quit. There are now numerous programmes available through your local GP and pharmacy and with newer medications which can assist in the quitting process, the excuses for continuing to smoke are very few.
Get you blood pressure checked. High blood pressure does not usually cause any symptoms and so the only way to know if yours is elevated is to get it measured. If it is high when measured, then it may be worthwhile investing in an electronic blood pressure monitor so you can see what the readings are like in the "real world". Take some readings in the morning, during the day, at home and at work so you can get an idea of what is happening in a typical day.
Get your blood sugar level tested. Impaired glucose tolerance is a precursor for diabetes. and again does not have any obvious symptoms. A fasting blood test ordered by your doctor is the only way to accurately check your levels.
Get your blood lipid or fat levels tested and make sure you know what your "good" and "bad" cholesterol levels are. There are no symptoms for high lipid levels and again this needs to be investigated by a blood test from your doctor.
Be physically active and maintain a healthy diet. There is so much confusing and conflicting advice given about diet and exercise. If we cut through all the input from marketing and various vested interest groups and simplify the advice, we come up with the following: Cut down on refined carbohydrates (sugars), saturated fats, salt and alcohol. Try to eat whole foods rather than processed foods. Aim to do 3-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1.5-2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity each week and aim to do some muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
It is recommended to have these health checks from the age of 45 or from the age of 35 if you are from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background.