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Heart Health: Your Guide To The Good And Bad

patient holding heart toy

Heart health is a huge topic in healthcare, and one that gets a lot of concern and attention, primarily because:

  • Regardless of your identity or lifestyle choices, you have a heart
  • Heart health affects so many other parts of your body and wellbeing
  • A healthy heart typically means an active, happy and fulfilling life – something we all want

As such, understanding what affects heart health is something everyone can benefit from.

We discuss:

  • Why heart health affects your quality of life so much
  • What’s good for your heart and why
  • What’s bad for your heart and why
  • Heart health winners and losers
  • How to know if your heart might be telling you something

Why heart health affects your quality of life so much

Your heart health is at the core of your overall wellbeing and, as many would argue, your happiness too.

It’s not just about avoiding heart attacks or strokes; it’s about enjoying life the way you see fit.

A healthy heart gives the energy and stamina to enjoy life and take part in the activities you like.

On the other hand, poor heart health can end up impacting every aspect of your daily life, from feeling constantly tired and sluggish to struggling to keep up with simple tasks.

By prioritising your heart health, you’re not just safeguarding against illness – you’re investing in a fulfilling life.

What’s good for your heart and why

Taking care of your heart involves more than just the obvious steps like proper diet and exercise.

It’s about a holistic approach that nurtures both your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Fun (healthy) activities like spending time with family and friends, hobbies, or simply taking a leisurely walk, can have a positive impact on your heart health.

Prioritising good sleep and finding healthy ways to cope with stress often contribute to a healthier heart.

It’s about a lifestyle that promotes good heart health.

The results of good heart health
Good heart health ensures that your heart and blood vessels function well, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow efficiently throughout your body. This supports your organs in doing their respective jobs and boosts your overall vitality.

What’s bad for your heart and why

When it comes to good heart health, there are some things you’ll want to avoid to keep it happy.

Smoking, for example, can seriously harm your heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Too much stress is another example that can take a toll on your heart, so finding healthy ways to manage stress is crucial.

Let’s not forget about a diet high in saturated fats and processed foods, which can lead to high cholesterol and other heart problems.

The results of bad heart health
Poor heart health can strain your heart and blood vessels, leading to reduced oxygen supply to vital organs. This can result in fatigue and low energy, difficulty performing daily tasks, and an increased risk of serious conditions like heart attacks and strokes.

Heart health winners and losers

With all the different lifestyle choices, including activities and food and drink options, it can be hard to know exactly what is a win or a loss when it comes to heart health.

Winners

  • Laughing. Laughter can improve blood flow and lower stress hormones.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. These include foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds. They help by reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of heart disease.
  • Enjoyable ways to stay active. Keeping active with low stress is heart health 1-0-1. Boring ways that can feel like a chore don’t do much for stress reduction.
  • Garlic. Incorporating garlic into your diet may help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Positive social connections. Time with friends and family provides emotional support and reduces stress levels.
  • Green tea. This contains antioxidants that can help lower cholesterol levels and improve blood vessel function.
  • Cardiovascular exercise. Activities like jogging, hiking or cycling strengthen the heart muscle.
  • Regular check-ups. A yearly check-up, or when your doctor recommends it, keeps professional eyes on your heart health and other vital signs, which can keep you on a path of better choices.

Losers

  • Stress. Chronic stress, meaning it lasts 3 months or more, can elevate blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Excessive alcohol. This can raise blood pressure, weaken the heart muscle, and contribute to conditions. See here for recommended intake.
  • Sitting for too long. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Sugary beverages. These can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and an elevated risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Red meat. Especially processed varieties, it’s linked to increased levels of cholesterol and a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Processed foods. These are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars, which can raise cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease. Examples: Frozen meals, deli meats, instant noodles and fried foods.
  • Smoking and vaping. Smoking can damage blood vessels, increase blood pressure, and accelerate the development of plaque in the arteries, leading to heart disease.
  • Missing regular check-ups. This can allow health problems to go unchecked. There are many issues and potential issues that show no signs until advanced stages.

If you’re due for a check-up, make an appointment today and stay on a path of proper health.

Honourable mentions

  • Red wine in moderation. Red wine contains antioxidants like resveratrol, which may have heart-protective benefits, but remember the keyword, “moderation”.
  • Watching your weight. A healthy weight can reduce the risk of heart disease and extra stress on your heart function.
  • Cooking at home. This gives control over ingredients and portion sizes, and minimises unhealthy fats and sodium.
  • Caffeine. Moderate caffeine consumption in coffee and dark chocolate (not energy drinks) may have some cardiovascular benefits, such as improved blood flow, but in excess can cause an increased heart rate.
  • Pollution. Poor air quality has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as it can trigger inflammation, constrict blood vessels, and raise blood pressure. Something that’s luckily not too common here in Australia.
  • Extreme heat. This can put additional strain on your heart and worsen any existing cardiovascular conditions.

How to know if your heart might be telling you something

Although some health issues aren’t evident until the later more serious stages – again highlighting the importance of regular check-ups, knowing the signs of poor heart health can still be valuable.

  • Chest discomfort: Tightness, pressure, or pain in the chest area, which may spread to your neck, arms, or back.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity or when lying down.
  • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or exhausted, even after adequate rest.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: Feeling faint or dizzy, particularly when standing up quickly.
  • Heart palpitations: Sensations of a rapid, fluttering, or irregular heartbeat.
  • Swelling: Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen due to fluid retention.
  • Sudden weight gain: Unexplained weight gain, which may indicate fluid buildup due to heart failure.
  • Cold sweats: Clammy or sweaty skin, especially in conjunction with other symptoms like chest pain.
  • Snoring: Loud, persistent snoring may indicate sleep apnea, a condition linked to heart problems.

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they are persistent or severe, seek medical attention quickly or dial 000 in emergencies.

Don’t ignore the signs – your heart health is too important to overlook.

In summary

Heart health affects everyone, no matter their age, lifestyle or choices, so knowing what affects such an important topic is a huge benefit.

Make an effort to ratchet up the good choices and ratched down the bad ones like excessive alcohol and a poor diet.

Also important are regular check-ups.

Regular check-ups allow professionals to, well, check for health problems before they get too serious. You can also ask any questions you may have about your health which takes the guesswork and assumptions out of something that might be of concern.

If you’re due for a check-up or would like to ensure your heart is on the right track, get in touch with us.