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Looking after your heart

There are lots of things you can do to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Learn more about how a healthy diet, regular physical activity and heart health checks can help.

Topics on this page

Nutrition

Research suggests that improving your overall diet, rather than focusing on one nutrient or food, is the best way to reduce your risk of CVD.

The Heart Foundation recommends you:

  • eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains
  • choose healthy protein sources, including fish (and other seafood), legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs and lean poultry
  • limit lean red meat to one to three times a week
  • choose unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese, and reduced-fat varieties if you have high cholesterol
  • include healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives (and their oils)
  • flavour food with herbs and spices instead of salt
  • choose water over other drinks.

This diet reduces your risk of CVD as it’s naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar.

Physical activity

It’s important to do regular physical activity throughout your life. Physical activity can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

General guidelines suggest being physically active for about 30 to 35 minutes, five or more days a week. This can include a range of activities from walking to weight training.

Talk to your doctor about which physical activities might benefit you.

Managing risk factors

It’s important to manage your CVD risk factors. While you can’t change your age, gender or family history, you can work towards managing other risk factors such as:

  • blood pressure
  • cholesterol
  • weight
  • smoking
  • diabetes.

Your doctor may also recommend certain medicines to manage your risk factors.

Heart health checks

Heart health checks are an important way to check your risk factors for CVD. A heart health check may involve:

  • discussion about your medical and family history
  • discussion about diet, physical activity, your weight, smoking and alcohol consumption
  • a blood pressure test
  • a cholesterol test
  • a blood sugar test.

Your doctor will use this information to assess your risk of stroke or heart attack.

Depending on your situation, they may suggest lifestyle changes or medicine, or both. They might also refer you to a cardiologist or other healthcare specialists, such as a dietitian or exercise physiologist.

The result of your heart health check will determine how often you need to be checked in the future.

Keep track of key health measures

It’s important to understand key health measures, such as your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol results. You can ask your doctor to check these markers regularly and discuss follow-up plans if needed.

Learn more about key health measures.

Read the Heart Foundation brochure about heart health checks (PDF 370KB).

Other resources

For more information about looking after your heart, including nutrition and different types of physical activities, visit the Heart Foundation website.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Last updated: 
05 February 2024
 | 
Last reviewed: 
12 November 2023

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