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Staying healthy when you have a heart condition

4-minute read

If you have a heart condition, it's important to stay as healthy as possible. You can look after your heart by having a healthy lifestyle. It’s never too late to start.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is one that includes a variety of healthy foods to help manage your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Everyone should eat a healthy diet, but it’s particularly important if you have heart problems.

The Heart Foundation recommends:

  • eating fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds every day
  • making healthy fat choices by eating nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olives, and cooking with their oils
  • eat a variety of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts or seeds, or legumes each day eating 6 or 7 eggs a week
  • reducing sugary snacks and other treats — for tips to help you with this, see How to cut down on sugar
  • choosing reduced fat dairy foods, including milk, cheese and yoghurt. Make sure they don't have any added sugar
  • using herbs and spices as flavourings, instead of salt
  • drinking water

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean diet are good examples of heart-healthy diets.

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

How to be active after heart disease

Regular exercise can reduce your risk of further heart problems by helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure and weight. Exercise can also improve your confidence and sense of well-being.

Brisk walking is usually safe for most people, but talk to your doctor before starting to exercise if you have a heart condition. It’s easier to exercise regularly if you enjoy it, so build it into your daily routine. Walking with friends or joining a walking group can help to keep you motivated.

Every bit of exercise helps. Ideally, adults should have regular, moderate-intensity activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Here are some tips for getting started with exercise.

Smoking and heart disease

If you smoke, quit. If you’d like support, the Quit Now website provides advice. You can call the Quitline on 13 7848.

Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits, reducing your risk of breathing problems, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. People who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another one by 50% compared to those who keep smoking.

Alcohol and heart disease

If you drink alcohol, it’s important to stay within the recommended limits to protect your body. Drinking beyond the recommended limits increases the risk of heart disease.

Whether you can continue drinking alcohol with a heart condition depends on the nature of your condition, other aspects of your health, and any medicine you may be taking. It’s best to get your doctor’s advice.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a specialised service to help you recover from your heart condition and get back to normal activities. Health professionals teach you how to manage your condition and support you in making healthy lifestyle changes. Ask your doctor to refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation service.

Further information

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2019

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