What heart specialists want you to know

It’s one of our most vital organs, but we don’t always give our hearts the TLC they need and deserve.

What do experts from around the world have to say about protecting our hearts?

As well as taking heart health checks, there are many other things we can do to take care of our heart, too.

We’ve rounded up the latest heart health advice from the experts.

Eat more fruit and whole grains

Eating too much salt and not enough whole grains and fruits affects our general health and heart disease risk, according to a new international study.

Some experts say the risk of heart disease from a poor diet is greater than the risk of smoking.

Enjoy five serves of vegetables and two pieces of fruit each day and swap processed foods for wholegrain breads, rice, pasta, noodles, porridge and muesli.

Avoid nasty bugs

Your risk of heart attack is 17 times higher in the week following an infection, like pneumonia, the flu and bronchitis.

University of Sydney researchers found a common cold and sinusitis also boost the risk.

“The incidence of heart attacks is highest during winter in Australia,” says Associate Professor Thomas Buckley from Sydney Nursing School.

Talk to your GP about the flu vaccine and stop the spread of colds and flu by covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, washing your hands thoroughly, and staying at least a metre away from people who are infected.

Get a good night’s sleep

Spanish research found people who sleep less than six hours a night are 27 per cent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people who snooze for longer.

“Sleep, together with diet and physical activity, is one of the healthy habits we need to adopt and maintain to keep our cardiovascular system healthy,” says researcher Jose Ordovas.

Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes

Around 1.5 million Australians have type 2 diabetes and they’re twice as likely as non-diabetics to die due to heart problems.

The Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute says cardiovascular disease is the No.1 cause of death among Australians with diabetes.

Reduce your diabetes risk by maintaining a healthy weight and avoid excess fat around your middle. Exercise most days, reduce fat and salt in your diet and quit smoking.

Have a filling breakfast

It’s often called the most important meal of the day and, when it comes to your heart, it is.

A high-energy breakfast including foods like milk, cheese, cereals, bread and honey may help keep arteries healthy, say Greek researchers.

Skipping breakfast has the opposite effect.

“A high-energy breakfast should be part of a healthy lifestyle,” reports Dr Sotirios Tsalamandris, of the University of Athens.

Aim to eat at least 20 per cent of your daily kilojoule intake first thing in the morning.

Find out more about heart health at the Heart Foundation.

Written by Sarah Marinos.