Help your Heart

CORONARY HEART DISEASE IS THE LEADING UNDERLYING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AUSTRALIA. IT HAS BEEN TRADITIONALLY CONSIDERED AN “OLD MAN’S
DISEASE”, BUT THE INCIDENCE OF HEART DISEASE IS RISING IN YOUNG PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY WOMEN.

Data in the US and Australia indicated people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly falling victim to cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Dr Ben Anderson specialises in Cardiothoracic Surgery. He says that while there is still a lot to learn about the trend, the rise in heart disease and heart attacks in younger people can generally be attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors.

“People in their 30s and 40s are presenting with high blood pressure and hypertension,” he explains.  “We are fairly sure that it’s the result of a diet of processed, high sodium and trans-fats. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Processed and packaged foods are responsible for most of the salt people eat. The best way to reduce salt is to eat a diet based on fresh, unprocessed foods.”

The Heart Foundation recommends 5g of salt (2000mg sodium) as a daily maximum amount, which is about a teaspoon. Studies have shown the most Australians are eating roughly 9g of salt a day – nearly double the recommended maximum. It is important to remember that all types of salt, including pink Himalayan, rock salt, black salt, table salt and sea salt contain the same amount of sodium, the part of salt that can be damaging to your health.

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it around your body. Your blood pressure will go up and down naturally throughout the day depending on what you are doing, especially if you are doing exercise.

High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is permanently higher than normal. High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, especially heart attacks and strokes.

High blood pressure can be relatively symptom-free, so it’s important to get regular blood pressure checks. You can have your blood pressure measured by a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, or at home with an approved machine.

“Along with diet, high blood pressure can be the result of family history, high alcohol intake, smoking being overweight and not exercising,” adds Dr Anderson. “The heart is much like a motor. Damage to the blood vessels causes it to wear out.”

As with all aspects of our health, the best course to take is aiming for prevention.

“The majority of heart attacks could be prevented with earlier detection of the disease, lifestyle changes and management of other risk factors. The best advice is not to smoke, get regular exercise, eat a heart healthy diet and manage your blood pressure and cholesterol.”

DR BEN ANDERSON


MBBS BMedSci FRACS
Director Gold Coast Cardiothoracic Unit -John Flynn Private Hospital
VMO Gold Coast Private, Pindara and The Tweed Hospital
Tel: 07 5598 0789
heartsurgerygoldcoast.com.au