PHOTOGRAPH: 5second, 123rf.com

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for about 30 per cent of all deaths in Singapore according to 2014 statistics from the Ministry of Health. The good news is that your risk of heart disease can be greatly reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle. 

Dr Goh Ping Ping, medical director at Singapore Heart Foundation says each person’s risk of getting heart disease varies. But many of these risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, stress and a sedentary lifestyle, are within your control. 

So change your habits – for example, lose weight or stop smoking – and you also lower your risk of developing heart disease. And more importantly, exercise.

Don’t worry if you’re currently unfit, Dr Goh has these tips to help you start a fitness regime without overexerting your body. 

 
Pick the right intensity
Before you embark on your exercise programme, check with your doctor to make sure that your blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels are normal. 

As a general rule, says Dr Goh, you should exercise until you perspire and breathe deeply, but not to the extent of feeling out of breath. If you are too breathless to talk while exercising, scale down the intensity of the activity. 

 

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Use the FITT key as a guide:  
•    Frequency (F) – five times a week 
•    Intensity (I) – until you sweat and breathe deeply without discomfort
•    Time (T) – at least 20 minutes per session, with an additional five to 10 minutes for warming up before and cooling down after exercise 
•    Type (T) – a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises.

 

Aim for the right heart rate
Your age affects how intensely you should be working out, that is, how hard your heart should be working. The faster your heart rate, the harder your heart is working. 

Memorise this easy formula: deduct your age in years from 170. Dr Goh says your heart rate should not exceed this number during physical activity. You can use a heart rate monitor to keep an eye on your heart rate, to ensure you don’t push yourself beyond your limit.

 

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Be aware of your personal risk
Dr Goh stresses that there are some risk factors that cannot be addressed with lifestyle changes, such as family history. Your risk is higher if your father or brother developed heart disease below the age of 50, or your mother or sister developed heart disease below the age of 60.

Another uncontrollable risk factor she points to is age. Women are usually at lower risk of heart disease than men until they hit menopause. After that, your risk increases progressively although doctors have yet to determine the cause. 

If you have a family history of heart disease, are approaching menopause or are post-menopausal, go for regular heart screenings once or twice a year to detect heart disease early and prevent complications.
 


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