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At least one in every 20 adults or 170,000 people in NZ have been diagnosed with heart disease. As a matter of fact, heart disease is one of the most common causes of death and disability in the country, killing one person every 90 minutes. As such, it is important for everyone to take the appropriate actions that will help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Types of Heart Disease

To reduce the risk of heart disease, we first need to know the different types of heart diseases or heart conditions. Some of these types are:

  • Congenital Heart Disease – this is the general term for when hearts do not develop properly, and deformities have been present since birth.
  • Coronary Heart Disease or ischaemic heart disease – heart disease that affects the arteries to the heart
  • Valvular Heart Disease – heart disease that is due to damaged heart valves
  • Arrhythmias – irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm disturbances
  • Heart Failure or Congestive Heart Failure – occurs when the heart can’t pump as efficiently as it needs to
  • Heart Attack – occurs when something blocks the blood flow to a section of your heart

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

One of the most common symptoms is angina or what we usually refer to as chest pain. Angina happens when a part of your heart does not receive enough oxygen for it to function efficiently. It is often described as a crushing pain or heaviness in the chest, with pain radiating to the arm or jaw. Other symptoms include breathlessness and heart palpitations.  Sometimes a heart attack can also resemble indigestion, with heartburn and stomachache. People suffering from a heart disease may also experience lightheadedness or dizziness and profuse sweating

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

There are many simple ways one can do to counter the risks of heart disease and to avoid being part of statistics. You can do this by making sure you control the factors that put you at greater risk.

  • Eat a Balanced Diet – if possible, adopt a heart-healthy eating pattern. Go for low-fat and high-fiber food. Daily consumption of vegetables and fresh fruits is recommended. Increase intake of whole grains while salt and sugar in the diet should be reduced.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight – ensure that your weight is just right for your height. Calculate and take note of your Body Mass Index or BMI.
  • Get Enough Exercise – engage in physical activity to strengthen your heart and circulatory system and help reduce cholesterol. Exercising also helps maintain your blood pressure.
  • Quit Smoking – be smoke-free by quitting or by avoiding second-hand smoke. Smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke is a major risk factor for people with heart diseases or heart conditions.
  • Take Medicine as Prescribed by your Doctor – regular check-ups and religiously taking prescribed medications can help avert heart risks.
  • Reduce Alcohol Intake – as much as possible do not drink more than 14 units per week.

There are also several organizations in NZ whose primarily goal is to stop Kiwis from dying prematurely due to heart disease or heart conditions. If you have a heart condition but would like to still live your life to the fullest despite your condition, you may want to reach out to these organizations for support.

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