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Lifestyle management

Heart Health Check Toolkit


Lifestyle management

Lifestyle advice and referral programs to help reduce CVD risk

Physical activity and a heart-healthy diet can help manage CVD risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. Currently, poor diet is a leading contributor (66%) to the burden of CVD and only 15% of Australians report that they meet the Australian Physical Activity guidelines of 150 min or more of moderate intensity physical activity.1,2 

Walking for an average of 30 minutes or more a day can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes 30 to 40%.3
A heart-healthy eating pattern is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar and rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6).4

Primary care practioners are well placed to encourage their patients to move more and eat healthier to improve their health and reduce their CVD risk. Use the practical tips below to communicate lifestyle recommendations to your patients.

Lifestyle advice and referrals for patients

Physical activity
  1. Facilitate discussions about physical activity and minutes per week. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. Discuss including 2 strength-based sessions per week.
  2. Provide your patient with verbal clearance to commence walking. Encourage them to start with Heart Foundation Personal Walking Plans.
  3. Social prescribing can support patients who prefer to walk in a group environment. Encourage them to join a Heart Foundation Walking Group in their local area.

If a patient requires specialised exercise advice for chronic disease or injuries, refer them to:


1. Encourage your patients to follow the Heart Foundation’s heart-healthy eating pattern:

  • Plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains
  • A variety of healthy protein sources, especially fish and seafood, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can be included in a heart-healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure the meat is lean and limit to 1–3 times a week
  • Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. Those with high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties
  • Healthy fat choices with nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
  • The use of herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt
  • Water as the drink of choice

More information is available here, which can be printed and provided to patients.

2. Encourage your patients to cook at home more often and to utilise Heart Foundation heart-healthy recipes and meal plans.

3. Make a referral to an Accredited Practising Dietitian for personalised nutrition advice and support (find one here).

Lifestyle goals for patients can also be found in My Healthy Heart management plan.

Read next ...

Cholesterol and heart disease

Table of contents

1. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2018, Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 (GBD 2017) Results, Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network, Seattle, Available from Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 (GBD 2017) Cause-Specific Mortality 1980-2017 | GHDx (

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Health Survey: First results, 2017-18. 2018.

3. Department of Health and Social Care. Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers’ report. 2020.

4. Heart Foundation (2019) Position Statement: Heart Healthy Eating Patterns. NHFA: Melbourne.

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Toolkit contents

Explore the list of pages in the Heart Health Check Toolkit for health professionals.

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About the Toolkit

Supporting general practices to integrate Heart Health Checks into routine patient care, with a range of resources and easy-to-use tools in one place.

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Downloadable resources

A full list of ready-to-use resources available in this Toolkit

Last updated02 May 2024