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This Heart Health Week prominent cardiologist Dr Ross Walker shares some pointers on how to help your housebound clients and community maintain a healthy heart and lower the risk of experiencing cardiovascular issues.

 

With many people housebound for health reasons, it’s time to talk about improving health, both inside and out. Good heart heath comes down, in many cases, to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Through its ability to slowly increase cardiovascular endurance1, exercise can lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart.

 

Heart Health Week

With over 4.2 million Australians currently suffering from cardiovascular issues2the burden of poor cardio health in Australia has taken its toll on our economy ($5.9 Billion Dollars3), and for many health professionals, finding simple ways for Australians to improve their cardiovascular health has become a priority.

National Heart Week is currently running – from 26 April to 2 May – and is a great tool for raising awareness and encouraging clients and your wider community to take the steps towards a healthier, stronger heart. Reminding them, for example, that 3-5 hours of moderate exercise weekly reduces their risk for cardiovascular issues by 30%4 can be powerful. This is a stronger effect than average doses of most cardiac medications.

Encourage clients to not be put off by the difficulties that have come with being housebound: the following tips will not only make exercise more manageable for them, but will also help improve their cardiovascular health, so I encourage you to share them with your community.

 


“Around 3-5 hours of moderate exercise weekly reduces risk for cardiovascular issues by 30% …a stronger effect than average doses of most cardiac medications.”


 

1. Get quality sleep 

It’s very easy to get caught up in online news, social media feeds or your favourite Netflix series – however, time spent awake late at night is often detrimental to overall cardiovascular health. Not only does your lifestyle become disrupted, those who skip sleep or don’t get enough of it are often at risk of increased blood pressure and inflammation5.

To get the most out of your time exercising, it’s important to set a sleep schedule that involves going to sleep at the same time every night. Low energy levels are often a consequence of poor sleeping habits and can sabotage your energy levels during exercise. Having a cooler, dark bedroom can also improve your overall sleep quality6. 

7-8 hours per night of good quality sleep is as good for your body as not smoking.

 

2. Get creative

When it comes to finding inventive ways to get your heart rate up, the sky is the limit. Absence of proper exercise apparatus needn’t be an excuse for not working out. Look around and take note of what you see. You’ll be amazed at how many common, everyday household items can be used to work up a sweat. Empty milk bottles can be filled up with water and used as weights to provide resistance training, and chairs can be used to complete step-ups that train your glutes, thighs and calves. If you’re at home with your partner or family, train together to turn exercise into a fun family activity.

 

3. Fuel your body and heart for exercise

Nutrition should never be ignored when it comes to creating a balanced lifestyle that works for you. Following an approach to eating such as the Mediterranean diet may improve heart health by reducing the buildup of plaque in arteries, while also providing many other useful metabolic effects7. A diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, proteins and carbohydrates will fuel your body to achieve better results in your workouts.

During this time of being largely housebound, you can also get creative and create meals that use up what you’ve got in the back of the pantry, in combination with fresh vegetables and protein. Got some tinned tomatoes, beans and some pasta? Throw in some fresh veggies and you’ve got the makings of a delicious and nutritious minestrone!

 

4. Power your exercise

To get the most from exercise requires good energy levels. For some people, supplements can be useful when dietary intake of nutrients is inadequate. Natural health supplements such as ubiquinol, a bio-available form of the coenzyme CoQ10 (an antioxidant that naturally occurs in the body), may assist in supporting cellular energy production and maintaining a healthy heart. This supplement has been shown to boost levels of CoQ10, which may reduce the stress of physical exertion and inflammation caused by exercise, and help muscles recover8. (As with any medication or supplement, you should always read the label, use only as directed and, if symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.)

In addition, other heart friendly supplements such as magnesium orotate, aged kyolic garlic, bergamot and vitamin K2 can also assist with maintaining a healthy heart9. 


REFERENCES
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3906547/
2. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/about-us/what-we-do/heart-disease-in-australia
3. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-disease/cardiovascular-disease-australian-facts-2011/contents/summary
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3548567/
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/
7. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1800389
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6486214/
9. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160121122158.htm


Dr Ross Walker

Dr Ross Walker is a leading practising cardiologist with over 35 years’ experience in integrative cardiology with a focus on heart disease prevention and optimal heart health. He has built a reputation for his extensive research and advocacy for sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes and using beneficial supplements to reduce one’s risk of modern-day diseases such as Cardiovascular Disease. Dr Walker is the author of seven books including The Life Factor and 5 Stages of Health and has a national radio show on the Macquarie Network every Sunday from 7-9pm.

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