Know Your Risk Factors and Care for Your Heart

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Hawkes

The Ornish program at a glance

Diet: Focus on lowering intake of high-fat animal proteins, including red meat, pork and full-fat dairy products; increase consumption of complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, non-fat dairy products, soy products and egg whites; eat moderate amounts of fish, skinless chicken, avocados, nuts, and seeds.

Exercise: Minimise the amount of inactivity, increase the general level of activity and make exercise an integral part of daily life. Include at least 20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, with frequency, intensity, time, and type adjusted according to your needs.

Stress management: Techniques include stretching, relaxation, breathing, imagery and meditation. Practising stress management techniques, developing a relaxation routine, locating a safe and quiet place to relax, finding a good time of the day for relaxation and creating a positive mental attitude about relaxation daily are key.

Social support: Emphasise one hour of social support each week with goals such as improving communication skills and becoming more aware of your feelings. Activities include spending more time with friends and family, group support, confession, forgiveness, redemption, compassion, altruism, service, psychotherapy, touching, commitment and meditation.

a...the simple choices that we make in our lives each daya[pounds sterling]like what we eat, how we respond to stress, can prevent or even reverse this disease.a a Dean Ornish

WOMEN are four times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. You may think heart disease could never affect you but, according to the Heart Foundation, 90% of Australian women have at least one risk factor, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or family history of heart disease.

The first step in combating heart disease is a healthy lifestyle and that means ditching saturated fats in takeaway and processed foods and increasing good fats in fish, olive oil and flaxseed; maximising your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables; exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, preferably doing something that gets your heart rate up even if it's brisk walking; and reducing stress.

Those who want to prevent heart disease or reverse it, may be interested in the work of Dr Dean Ornish, former personal physician to Bill Clinton, who has been mounting an aggressive campaign against heart disease for three decades. …