Healthy Heart Check

People without any cardiac symptoms should not be subject to extensive (and expensive) tests. Most of the times, general measures focusing on the prevention of cardiovascular disease and the treatment of the risk factors (hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, etc) are enough. However, many people are worried about their cardiac health or want specific advice about how to manage their risk factors.

It is advisable to seek a specialist opinion even if you don’t have symptoms when:

  • there is a strong family history of heart problems at a young age
  • your hypertension is not under control despite multiple medications
  • your cholesterol is still raised although you are on a statin
  • there is a family history of sudden deaths
  • a relative of yours has been diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy
  • you are about to engage on a physically challenging (extreme) activity
  • you want to become a professional athlete

A short discussion with a cardiologist followed by a simple examination with the stethoscope can sometimes reveal heart problems that don’t cause symptoms. If you have any concerns regarding your cardiac health or want a cardiology check-up, you can arrange a consultation here.

Preventing heart disease

Cardiovascular disease is the worldwide leading cause of death. It is estimated that by 2025 the deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease will reach 25 million per year. The prevalence of the disease is increasing mainly due to the “modern” way of life (sedentary living, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, stress).

As established cardiac problems may be difficult to treat and significantly affect the quality of life, it is important to focus on prevention. It is also important to identify early signs of cardiac disease and seek help.

Below you can find 10 basic rules in cardiovascular disease prevention. Try to adhere to as many as possible to reduce the risk of a cardiac event in the future:

  • Perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity
  • Stop smoking
  • Adopt a healthy diet (no dietary supplements are required). Mediterranean diet is the most studied and has excellent effects on the heart
  • Limit alcohol consumption to 2 units per day for men and 1 unit per day for women
  • Keep your Body Mass Index below 25kg/m2 or try to work towards this goal
  • Keep your non-HDL cholesterol below 3.8mmol/L (for individuals with no previous history of heart problems)
  • Keep your systolic blood pressure below 140mmHg and your diastolic blood pressure below 90mmHg (age group <60years)
  • Do not use aspirin as a prophylactic drug if not specifically recommended by your doctor
  • Have routine blood tests on a regular basis (at least every year)
  • If you experience any suspicious symptoms (breathlessness on exertion, chest pain, palpitations), do not ignore them. Visit your doctor for a consultation.

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Ten Tips for Women to maintain a healthy heart

There are many steps a woman can take to maintain a healthy heart:

  • Perform 300 minutes a week of aerobic physical activity of moderate intensity (brisk walking, slow cycling, painting/decorating, vacuuming, dancing, water aerobics, gardening, jogging) or 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity (race-walking, running, fast cycling, swimming laps, tennis)
  • Reduce salt intake to <5g per day
  • Eat >200g of fruit per day (2-3 servings)
  • Eat >200g of vegetables per day (2-3 servings)
  • Eat 30-45g of fibre per day, preferably from wholegrain products
  • If you have a history of pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-related hypertension, you need screening for established hypertension and diabetes every year
  • If you have a history of polycystic ovary syndrome or gestational diabetes, you need screening for established diabetes every year
  • Ask for help if you suffer from excess stress at work or in your family life or from depression. Psychosocial factors have a significant effect on lifetime cardiovascular risk
  • Limit your alcohol consumption to 1 glass per day (10g/d)
  • Maintain or aim towards a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25 kg/m2