According to the Heart Foundation, 33 per cent of deaths that occur annually in New Zealand are caused by cardiovascular disease. Shockingly, that means that every 90 minutes, a New Zealander dies from heart disease. So, what are we doing wrong? And what can you do to improve your own heart health?
Specialist clinic Specialist Vein Health have put together a simple, go-to list of the top 10 ways to ensure you keep your cardiovascular health in check well into your 60s and beyond. Contact us today
1. MAINTAIN GOOD BLOOD PRESSURE CONTROL
High blood pressure can cause considerable damage to the walls of your arteries. The exertion of increased force can cause microscopic tears in your artery walls, that turn into scar tissue. According to Dr Lupe, this scar tissue provides a scaffold for fat, cholesterol and other substances to build up.
The hardening and narrowing of the arteries also results in blockages, which can lead to the fatty deposits flicking off and causing a heart attack or stroke.
2. GET YOUR CHOLESTEROL CHECKED
As mentioned, high cholesterol can lead to deposition of fats into the artery wall. Dr Lupe goes into more detail: “This cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, combines with other substances to form plaque in the artery walls. This plaque build-up causes progressive narrowing and eventually blockage in blood vessels supplying the organs in the body. This can lead to a stroke, heart attack, and problems with your lower limb circulation.”
3. STOP SMOKING (OR CONTINUE NOT TO)
Apart from severely impacting your lung capacity, smoking can cause some serious damage to your arteries. The toxins in cigarette smoke can damage their internal lining.
4. GET TESTED FOR DIABETES
According to The Ministry of Health, diabetes is New Zealand’s fastest growing health issue. They warn that there are more than 240,000 people in New Zealand who have been diagnosed with diabetes and a further 100,000 are yet to be diagnosed. The high sugar levels and hormone imbalances diabetes sufferers experience can lead to hardening of the arteries.
5. GET SCREENED FOR AORTIC ABDOMINAL ANEURYSM
Because the aorta is the body’s main supplier of blood, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding. Being screened involves a painless, ultrasound scan that will ensure there is no weakness or expansion of your aortic artery. In other words, it should be on every over-60s to-do list, especially if you’re a smoker, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
6. MAINTAIN VASCULAR HEALTH WHILE TRAVELLING
Travelling can take a toll on our wallets, patience, and indeed our cardiovascular wellbeing. The dehydration that occurs on a long plane or car journey can cause your blood to thicken, which increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), that can lead to a blood clots. To avoid this, wear compression stockings, move every hour during your trip and drink plenty of water.
7. GET YOUR VARICOSE VEINS TREATED
Don’t dismiss your varicose veins as purely a cosmetic issue. Getting these treated will prevent the risk of developing ulcers or developing DVT. Dr JK Wicks, from Specialist Vein Health, warns that it’s especially important for over-60s to pay attention to your vein health. “The valves in the veins in your legs also relax with age, causing blood to pool. This can lead to leg swelling, discomfort and increase your risk of leg ulcers and blood clots.”
Additionally, it will help with aching or tired legs, which may be stopping you from exercising.
8. REDUCE YOUR SALT CONSUMPTION
Salt is important to the body as it helps your kidneys retain water, maintains circulation and assists the heart in pumping oxygenated blood. However, eating too much of it disrupts the delicate balance and reduces the kidneys’ ability to remove water. The resulting extra fluid and strain on your blood vessels causes high blood pressure and damage to your blood vessels.
9. STAY ACTIVE
According to the Heart Foundation, being physically inactive increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50 per cent. By exercising for just 30 minutes a day, you can lower your risk of high-blood pressure, stress, tensions, depression and anxiety and maintain a healthy weight.
10. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
As well as exercising, to maintain a healthy weight you should eat a balanced, healthy, low-fat diet. According to Dr JK Wicks, the key is avoiding trans fats, as they increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol. “Check food labels for trans fats or hydrogenated oils, as eating these increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke,” he explains. Examples of food that contain trans fats include fried foods like doughnuts, cakes, frozen pizza and so on.
For more information contact Specialist Vein Health at svh.co.nz.