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Feel fabulous over 50: Heart health

Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in New Zealand and Australia. Many people don't realise heart disease is the leading single cause of death in women.

It kills four times as many women as breast cancer – and while breast cancer is an important health issue – New Zealand women need to be just as vigilant about their heart health. In New Zealand, more than seven women die from heart disease every day. The risk increases with age, but it is largely preventable. It is vital to maintain a healthy weight and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control. A heart-healthy diet, low in saturated fat and salt, and regular physical activity are essential.

Eat the right fats: Choose low-fat dairy – milk, yoghurt, custard, cheese and ice cream, and lean meats. Limit cakes, biscuits, takeaway foods and chocolates. Use a variety of 'good' oils such as olive, canola and sunflower oil. Use a reduced-fat spread instead of butter.

Eat fish twice a week: Fish has protective omega-3 fats.

Eat plenty of protective plant foods: Vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Reduce salt intake: Choose low-salt and salt-reduced products.

Exercise: Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity such as walking or cycling – the more the better.

Stay connected with family and friends: Social isolation is now a recognised risk factor for heart disease.

Fast fact: All over-50s should have their cholesterol level, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels measured and regularly checked by their doctor.

First published: Apr 2009



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