Heart Health- A Specialist's Insight...

Every 12 minutes, an Australian dies from cardiovascular disease and it is the single biggest killer of Australian women. The St Vincent’s Private and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney cardiac team are recognised as State and National leaders in the provision of cardiac services, including cardiac transplantation, and they are extremely committed to helping patients live longer and healthier lives.

Cardiologist Dr Andrew Roy answers some commonly asked questions regarding heart health.

What can I do for a healthy heart?

The good news is that it is never too late to improve your heart health and cardiovascular fitness, and you'll notice the benefits soon after adapting some of these simple lifestyle measures. Start today, with healthy eating, physical activity, and risk factor control, and aim to make simple but sustainable changes for a healthy lifestyle. Why not involve your partner, family, or friends to join you on the journey!

Which risk factors should I be aware of?

See your GP or specialist to have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar checked. Similarly, if you have a first-degree family member with heart disease, it is also important to check for these other risk factors. If you already have these conditions, take an active role with your health professional to ensure that they are well controlled and checked regularly. Most people have no symptoms due to high blood pressure, and simple lifestyle changes including weight and alcohol reduction can also have a profound blood pressure lowering effect.

Smoking remains one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and stroke. And it's never too late to stop smoking, with the benefits noticeable within a week or two. Engaging with your GP, pharmacist, or specialist to assist you will increase your success, and don't be disheartened if it takes more than one attempt to do so.

What effect does the food I eat have on my heart?

Research shows healthy eating patterns using food group combinations such as the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet, can lower your risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy eating plan typically involves a balanced intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, legumes, low-fat dairy and fish. Limit saturated fat, sugar, and sodium intake, along with reductions in red meat and processed meat. These heart-healthy eating habits can be adapted to different cultural styles, and also co-existing medical conditions.

Am I doing enough regular physical activity?

At least 30 minutes 5 days a week has shown to be beneficial for heart health. Increasing activities to 60 minutes has even more benefit. These activities can include walking, cycling, swimming, or even dancing! Weigh yourself and calculate your own Body Mass Index (BMI) to establish whether or not you're in the healthy heart range. For more information visit heartfoundation.org.au.

What symptoms should I watch out for?

Cardiac symptoms can vary, even between males and females, so if you have any concerns about yourself or your partner, see your health care professional immediately, or call an ambulance. Common symptoms include pressure or heaviness in the chest, either at rest or on exertion, shortness of breath, unexplained dizziness, or feeling the heart racing. Less common symptoms can include indigestion, unexplained weakness or fatigue, or numbness or pressure in the arms, back or shoulders.

And remember that prevention is key for a healthy heart, mind, and body, so why not start today? Even small changes can make a difference!

Dr Andrew Roy

Dr Andrew Roy, Cardiologist

St Vincents Clinic

Suite 803, Level 8

48 Victoria Street

Darlinghurst, NSW, 2010

P: (02) 8382 6811

F: (02) 8382 6812

E: andyroy@live.com.uk