On the Move
Chances are, you already know that physical activity is good for you. ‘Sure’, you may say. ‘When I get out and move around, I know it helps me to feel and look better’. However, you may not realise just how important regular physical activity is to your health.
According to medical studies, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. This is true even if you have no other conditions or habits that increase your risk for heart disease. Lack of physical activity also leads to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalisations and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.
The good news is that physical activity can protect your heart in a number of important ways. Moreover, to get benefits, you don’t have to run a marathon. Regular activity – something as simple as a brisk, 30-minute walk each day – can help you to reduce your risk of heart disease.
You have control.
Physical inactivity is one of several major risk factors for heart disease that you can do
something about. The others are as follows:
- Smoking: People who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day. Quitting will greatly reduce your risk. Check with your doctor or local community groups for free or low-cost programmes designed to help people stop smoking.
- High Blood Pressure: Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. Your general practitioner (GP) can check your blood pressure by means of a simple test using an inflatable arm cuff. Blood pressure often can be entirely controlled by getting regular physical activity, losing excess weight, cutting down on alcohol and changing eating habits, such as using less salt and other forms of sodium. For some people, medication is also needed.
- High Blood Cholesterol: High blood cholesterol can lead to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which raises the risk of a heart attack. Starting at age 20, everyone should have their cholesterol levels checked by means of a blood test called a lipoprotein profile . You can lower high blood cholesterol by getting regular physical activity, eating less saturated fat and trans fat, and managing your weight. In some cases, medication is also needed.
- Overweight: If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop heart disease even if you have no other risk factors. Ask your doctor to help you determine whether you need to lose weight for your health. The good news is that losing just 5 to 10 per cent of your current weight will help to lower your risk of heart disease and many other medical disorders.
- Diabetes greatly increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and other serious diseases. Ask your GP whether you should be tested for it. Many people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the disease by reducing calories as part of a healthy eating plan, and by becoming more physically active. If you already have diabetes, work closely with your doctor to manage it.
Eight Tips for Heart Health
- Become – and stay – physically active.
- Balance your calorie intake with the calories you burn in physical activity.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- If you smoke, stop. Avoid other people’s smoke if you can.
- Control high blood pressure.
- Control high blood cholesterol.
- Control diabetes.
- Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt. Enjoy more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
*National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); National Institutes of Health (NIH) (2006, June; Revised 2014 [Ed.]). On the move (p1); You have control (p6) & Eight tips for heart health (p7). In Your guide to physical activity and your heart (NIH Pub. No. 06-5714). Retrieved 31 January 2014 from www.nhlbi.nih.gov