In 2016, there were 158,504 deaths in Australia - 81,867 males and 76,637 females. The leading cause? Coronary heart disease, accounting for nearly 13 per cent of all deaths.
And while numbers are high, prevention is far simpler than the figures suggest.
Coronary heart disease is when blood flow to the heart is restricted, typically resulting in a heart attack. But frequent medical checks are the first step you can take to minimise your risk, says Swisse Expert, Eliza Millsom.
“Regular check-ups with your doctor are always recommended. Often with heart disease there may be no present symptoms, so it’s a great idea to get checked nice and early,” advises Millsom.
There is no single cause of heart disease however and risk factors range vastly. Family history of heart disease, age, gender, lifestyle, diet and stress all play a part.
Moving your body might be your first point of call. Research published in the journal Circulation found that working out 30 minutes a day minimised risk of heart failure by 10 per cent. Working out an hour a day slashed those odds by almost 20 per cent.
“Being physically inactive is one of the risk factors for heart disease. Physical activity or movement is key to keeping the heart nice and healthy. It is important to be active in some way every single day of the week,” adds Millsom.
“Don’t set yourself up for failure if exercise is new to you, find something you enjoy and start small.”
While exercise seems the answer, it’s not necessarily the only remedy.
“Fitness isn’t the goal when it comes to taking care of our health. More emphasis needs to be put on living a holistic, healthy lifestyle. This means considering all aspects of our life that can affect the health of our heart,” continues Millsom.
Diet is also key to maintaining a healthy heart. Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings indicated that foods rich in omega-3s reduced the risk of coronary heart disease while ingredients from the Mediterranean diet like virgin olive oil provide similar benefits, reports Circulation.
Although you can eat your heart to good health, if there are foods high in cholesterol on your plate, your arteries won’t be too pleased with you.
“High blood cholesterol is a condition in which your blood has too much cholesterol—a waxy, fat-like substance. The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attack,” says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLB).
Similarly, a diet high in sodium and added sugar can do equal damage to your heart.
“It's also important to limit foods that are high in sodium (salt) and added sugars. A high-salt diet can raise your risk of high blood pressure,” writes the NHLB.
“Added sugars will give you extra calories without nutrients like vitamins and minerals. This can cause you to gain weight, which raises your risk of CHD. Added sugars are found in many desserts, canned fruits packed in syrup, fruit drinks, and nondiet sodas.”
When it comes to keeping your coronary health in check, you need to take a holistic approach to your wellness. A combination of eating the right foods and being active will significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim to the number one killer of men in Australia.
Men’s Health Week is the perfect opportunity to take control of your heart health.