Did you know cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke and blood vessel disease) is the leading cause of death in New Zealand? 
This week is annual Heart Appeal week and Physiotherapy New Zealand has five simple tips for looking after this important muscle.
“Have you considered that the heart is a muscle? Just like any other muscle, the heart works best and most efficiently if you exercise regularly. If you can fit in 30 minutes of exercise a day then you can effectively reduce your risk of heart disease,” says Physiotherapy New Zealand President Gill Stotter.
“Walking to the next bus stop, taking the stairs, gardening, mowing the lawns… all of these activities count towards increasing your level of activity. So this week I challenge you to take at least one step towards a healthier heart.”
5 tips for a healthier heart
1. Move more
Incorporating more exercise into your day is vital for your heart and general health. Start off with small amounts of exercise; every minute counts. To make it manageable try fitting it into your daily routine so it becomes a habit, how about taking the stairs, gardening, hanging out the washing, swimming or heading out for a short walk? Try and aim for at least 30 minutes of activity every day.
2. Don’t let a chronic condition hold you back
If you have a chronic condition such as arthritis you can still exercise and keep your heart healthy. Try talking to a physio for a modified exercise programme or test out low impact exercises such as swimming and simple stretches.
3. Stop smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your heart and your health in general. Make 2013 the year you give it up. Help is available on Quitline 0800 778 778 many physios are also Quit Card providers.
4. Manage your stress
Too much stress in your life can increase your blood pressure and the likelihood of your blood clotting. If your feeling under pressure then try taking time out just for you. Figure out what helps you relax. Exercising can reduce stress so perhaps a walk with a friend is the answer, or you could perform some simple breathing exercises while sitting in your office chair.
5. Know the risk factors
Finding out if you have any risk factors for cardiovascular disease is an important step towards prevention and a healthier heart. You can ask your doctor for a heart check or this online tool from the Heart Foundation can assess your risk of a heart attack or stroke www.knowyournumbers.co.nz
For information on how to donate to the Heart Foundation’s Annual Appeal visit http://www.heartfoundation.org.nz. Hay, D. 2004. cardiovascular Disease in New Zealand. 2004.