The 29th of September, 2017 marks World Heart Day. It’s a global initiative aimed at informing and educating the world about heart disease and empowering people to inspire each other to be heart healthy.

Currently over 17 million people each year die because of cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD refers to all diseases involving the heart and blood vessels.

What increases your risk of CVD?

It’s predicted that by the year 2030 over 23 million people worldwide will die of CVD per year. Currently 1 in 6 Australians are affected by CVD, fortunately, there are several lifestyle changes which can be implemented to lower your risk.

While there are a number of risk factors for different CVD’s, some are non-modifiable and some are modifiable.

Non-modifiable risk factors:

  • Age: As we age the risk of CVD increase, with a risk of stroke doubling every decade after 55 years.
  • Family history: If a first-degree male relative suffered a heart attack before the age of 55, or a first-degree female relative before the age of 65 you are at a greater risk of developing a heart disease.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop CVD.
  • Gender: Men are at greater risk of heart disease than pre-menopausal women. Once women pass menopause their risk is similar to men’s.
  • Socioeconomic status: Your risk of heart disease and stroke increases with a chronically stressful lifestyle, social isolation, anxiety, depression and poverty.
  • Ethnicity: People of African or Asian ancestry are at a higher risk of CVD.

Modifiable risk factors:

  • Weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of developing hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis, all putting you at a greater risk of CVD.
  • Physical activity: Doing more than 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise per week will reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 30%.
  • Smoking status: Smoking is estimated to increase the risk of death from undiagnosed coronary heart disease by 300%.
  • Diet: A diet high in saturated fats can increase your risk of CVD.

How to prevent heart disease

While there are risk factors which you cannot control, such as family history and ethnicity, simple lifestyle changes can help keep your heart healthy.

1. Eat healthy

Maintaining a healthy diet can help decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Chose foods which are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and oily fish.

2. Get active

Just 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise per week can help decrease your risk of CVD. This includes activities such as walking briskly, jogging, cycling etc.

3. Learn the warning signs

Familiarise yourself with the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke, no matter what your age.

  •  Heart attack:
    • Uncomfortable pain, pressure, squeezing or fullness in the centre of your chest which lasts more than a few minutes or goes and comes back.
    • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea or light-headedness
  •  Stroke:
    • F: Face drooping
    • A: Arm weakness
    • S: Speech difficulty
    • T: Time to call 000