10 tips for heart healthy living

For Heart Month international and National Heart Research Day, 14 February, Dr Joanna McMillan - a leading Dieticians, Nutritionist, TV personality presents her healthy heart tips.


To boost your heart health and vitality, here are 10 of Joanna McMillan's top tips:Joanna McMillan


1.      Let’s start with food. The truth is there are many ways to put together a healthy diet, provided it is built on a foundation of real whole foods, close the way nature intended. Don’t get caught up the latest fads, detoxes and trendy diets. These are only ever short term fixes and almost never lead to the kind of changes you need for permanent results. Make this year different and change your eating habits for good.


2.      Maintain a healthy weight. Sadly, it’s now more normal to be overweight than it is to be a healthy weight in Australia. Let’s turn that statistic around! You can lose weight with any number of different diets and the truth is that the hard part is keeping it off. That’s why it is so essential to make dietary changes that last forever and not just for the duration of the ‘diet’.



3.      If you still smoke give up! It not only damages your body, but makes you age faster too. Plus, just think of all the money you’ll save! You’ll even find that food tastes better when you give up as your taste-buds are numbed by smoking. There are plenty of avenues for help so don’t think you have to go it alone. Check out the Australian Government site quitnow.gov.au for advice and further resources.


4.      If you drink ensure you do so moderately, taking a tip from the Mediterranean Diet where wine is consumed with dinner, but weekend binge drinking is out. Aim for at least a couple of days alcohol free in your week and only a couple of drinks when you do drink. Alternating with a sparkling water is a good way to keep yourself hydrated and slow down your drinking.


5.      Look after your cardiovascular system by controlling blood pressure, blood sugar levels & maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels. Beta-Heart can help with this. It provides the soluble fibre beta-glucan you’ll find in oats and barley. This binds cholesterol in your gut, removing it from the body. It’s been clinically proven to help reduce total and LDL-cholesterol levels. It even helps with blood sugar control, it’s low GI, has no added sugar and no artificial additives. And it’s super easy to get into your day – just mix with water, milk or add to a smoothie.


6.      Break up the time you spend sittingsitting more than 8 hours a day is a significant risk factor to your health, even if you make it to the gym 3 times a week! It’s worth investing in a standing desk and most big corporations now have these. I use a Varidesk (au.varidesk.com) which allows me to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. You can also try standing whenever you are on the phone, having standing or walking meetings, and simply breaking up sitting time with a 5-minute stretch.


7.      Exercise for at least 30 mins on most days and if possible add 2-3 more intense sessions into your week. If you really hate the gym there are plenty of other options from dancing to surfing to cycling to yoga - or just a brisk walk in the fresh air. You can always add a few stairs and hills to increase the intensity.


8.      Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep on most nights. We can cope with one or two bad nights of sleep but most of us do need that much. If you’re sleeping badly put into place some good strategies including no caffeine after 3pm, no more than a glass or two of alcohol, no screen time in the hour before bed, go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day and keep the TV out of the bedroom.


9.      Manage your stress levels. Chronic stress leads to elevated levels of stress hormones including cortisol and can lead to all sorts of health problems. In fact, too much cortisol will even lead to fat storage around the middle. A little stress is good as it motivates us, but the trick is to keep things manageable. Meditation, yoga, exercise (especially outdoors), breathing exercises and spending quality time both on your own and with loved ones, are all good ways of managing stress.


10.  Seek moments of joy in your day. Of course we can’t be happy all of the time, but we are ultimately pleasure seekers and so for any healthy lifestyle to succeed and become a way of like, it has to be built on a foundation of joy.


This is the third in a series of six topics Dr Jo is compiling on Heart Health. For food Heart Health and Cardiovascular Health valuable hints and tips watch at http://www.betaheart.com.au/videos/.


12 February 2016.