Men need to keep their heart healthy and strong

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Heart disease is the leading killer of Australian men and makes up 13% of male deaths. Plus, men are more likely to have heart disease than women, at 3.6% of males compared to 2.1% of females.

Through Men’s Health Week, the Heart Foundation wants to share this critical message with Australian men:

We are there for you. Together, we can keep your hearts healthy and strong.

Keeping men heart healthy

Men’s Health Week runs from 10 - 16 June 2019. The theme for this year is Keeping Boys and Men Healthy.

When heart disease is our biggest killer, taking the lives of 51 Australians every day, we need to ask, “What can men do to fight heart disease?”.

Many men develop heart disease because of genetic or other existing health factors that they cannot control. But there are lifestyle decisions men can make to minimise the risks of developing heart disease.

How can men take up the fight against heart disease? By making healthy choices, they may be able to minimise or avoid the pain and discomfort, and ultimately death, associated with heart disease.

The choices men make today can help shape their heart health well into the future. Plus, when men take action to improve their heart health, they are setting a great example for their partners, children, families, friends and colleagues.

The first place for men to start is to get a better understanding of their heart health and the steps they can take to fight heart disease.

Take these steps to fight heart disease

Get a Heart Health Check

A new Medicare-funded Heart Health Check is available to all Australians. 

The Heart Foundation recommends Australians 45 years of age and older, and 35 years and older for those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, have a Heart Health Check.

When you see your doctor for a Heart Health Check, you’re taking an important step to find out more about your heart health and to learn about what you can do to improve this into the future, including the changes you can make to minimise your chance of developing heart disease.

Your Heart Health Check will involve:

Your doctor collecting a range of information about your heart health; this will help in identifying any of your risk factors for developing heart disease. The doctor will ask you about your family history of heart disease, whether you have diabetes, your level of alcohol consumption, whether you smoke, your cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

You will also have an examination, which will include a blood pressure check and a discussion about addressing any risk factors for heart disease. Your doctor might provide you with information that helps you to make changes that can improve your heart health

After your Heart Health Check, your doctor will have a better idea of your risk factors, and they will calculate your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.  Your result will show whether you are at low, medium or high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Depending on your result, your doctor may encourage you to keep doing what you are doing, or give you advice, information and support to make heart-healthy changes to your lifestyle: this could include changing your diet, doing more physical activity, quitting smoking or reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.

If your risk level is high, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, or both.  Learn more about risk factors for heart disease.

Be more active more often

Getting active is something you will discuss with your doctor during your Heart Health Check. Being active more often is a vital step (or thousands of steps!) towards improving your heart health.

Alarmingly, 51% of men do not meet physical activity guidelines.

How often should men be active?  Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for adults aged 18 – 64 recommend:

  • Being active on most, preferably all, days of the week
  • Doing 2 1/2 to 3 hours of moderate physical activity each week, or
  • Doing 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 1/2 hours of vigorous activity each week
  • Doing muscle-strengthening activity or exercise on at least two days each week

How can you get active during your day? Consider ideas like walking the dog or walking to the train station or bus stop, going for a walk during your lunch break, or playing sport with your mates or your kids. Or, joining a local Heart Foundation Walking group!

Healthy eating for healthy hearts

There’s a lot of information out there about the “best” diet for your health, and you can easily become overwhelmed or confused by advice that outlines what you should and should not eat. The Heart Foundation supports people to eat a heart-healthy diet, and we do this by focusing on healthy eating patterns; these do not rely on one type of food or one type of nutrient to support heart health.

Instead, heart-healthy eating is regularly eating a specific combination of foods over time. This style of eating is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar. Plus, it's rich in whole grains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats.  Find out more about heart-healthy eating principles here

Eating healthy doesn’t mean eating tasteless foods. Check out some of our delicious heart-healthy recipes!

Quit so your heart breathes easier

Every cigarette is harming your heart: smokers are four times more likely to die of heart attack and stroke and three times more likely to die of sudden cardiac arrest (sudden cardiac death). The only way to remove this risk is to quit.

Importantly, once you quit smoking, your heart health will begin to improve:

  • One year after you stop smoking, your risk of heart attack is cut by half
  • Within 5 – 15 years your risk of coronary heart disease returns to that of someone who never smoked

It’s OK if you need help with quitting. Find out how to go smoke-free by reading the Heart Foundation’s Quit smoking action plan.

More resources for men’s heart health

The Heart Foundation Helpline

The Helpline provides free, personalised heart health information and support. For the cost of a local call, you can speak with qualified health professional and access information about heart health, eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle. You can reach the Helpline by calling 13 11 12 during business hours.

Get active

Don’t miss our free physical activity booklet, packed with tips on keeping active for better heart health. Download our free booklet and get moving!

Enjoy these heart-healthy winter recipes

Looking for hearty, heart-healthy comfort food this winter? Download our free booklet and get cooking!