The basic advice for general heart health is lifestyle change, Dr Chiam says. “And lifestyle has 2 components, a balanced diet and exercise. Of course, don’t smoke if you’re not a smoker or quit smoking if you’re already a smoker."
For the diet, what we aim to do is reduce saturated fat intake, reduce added salt, reduce refined sugars and really take a lot more fibre, from either vegetables or fruits, and perhaps some fish or lean meat. At the end of the day, it’s everything in moderation.
As for exercise, the recommendation is that you have to get certain amounts of exercise 3 times a week. For most people, it’s not easy to do, so I suggest to get any activity as much as possible, even if it is walking, climbing stairs, brisk walking or even a short burst of 10 minutes of exercise a day – it is still better than no exercise at all.
Of course, other things we can do are to screen ourselves for risk factors for heart disease, conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The recommendation for screening starts at around 40 years of age. If you look at the cholesterol guidelines, the first test recommended, if the patient has no previous history, is around 40 years of age. If the test is normal, or has a good cholesterol result, then the subsequent test will be in 3 – 5 years. If the results are borderline or not so good, then the next test will be in a year’s time.
Then of course depending on if the first test was abnormal or had a very high result, then we have to consider starting therapy for these patients to reduce the risk of heart disease later on.
Video contributed by Dr Paul Chiam, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
This video was first published by Global Health and Travel on 15 Jun 2014