Dr Kenneth Guo, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, gives tips on how to look after your heart.
What are the best foods and vitamins to strengthen your heart?
One of the cornerstones for supporting a healthy heart is your diet. When it comes to a heart-healthy diet, follow 3 simple rules:
- Eat a variety of nutritious food from all the food groups
- Eat less of foods which are poor in nutrients, eg. potato chips
- Know how many calories you should be eating to maintain your weight, and match your diet to that goal
What exercises can you do to strengthen your heart?
Consider a gradual build-up of low impact exercises, such as walking.
Aim to walk at least 30 minutes each time at a heart rate of 55 – 60% your maximum average heart rate. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you're 45 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 175 beats per minute.
At 45 years old, your target heart rate while walking should then be 96 – 105 beats per minute.
Research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes each day reduces your blood pressure, blood sugar and lipid profile, as well as your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
What habits are detrimental to heart health?
The big 4 no-no's for a healthy heart are:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy diet
- Poor stress management
How often should you go for a check-up?
Patients with significant risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, kidney disease or stroke should follow up regularly with their physicians. The frequency of their visits depend on their condition. This can range from every 3 months to every 6 months.
For people without significant risk factors and aged above 20, we suggest visiting your family physician to calculate your 10-year risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, every 4 – 6 years. Those with an elevated 10-year risk (7.5% and more) will need closer follow-up.
How do emotions and mental health affect your heart?
Stress may lead to behaviours that increase heart disease risk, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating and procrastinating exercise.
There are ways to deal with stress and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends these 4 simple steps:
- Positive self-talk. For example, instead of saying 'everything is going wrong', say something like 'I can take things one step at a time'.
- Having emergency stress stoppers, actions you can take to deal with stress on the spot. For example, counting to 10 before you speak when confronted.
- Finding things that bring you pleasure, such as having a cup of freshly brewed coffee or baking some delicious cookies.
- Daily relaxation. This can be anything from reading in your favourite chair, or taking up yoga or tai chi.