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Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight for heart health

Posted: 16th July 2014   |   5 comments

When it comes to physical activity, The Health of New Zealand Adults 2011/12: Key findings of the New Zealand Health Survey is a mixed bag for Māori, and bad news for our Pacific cousins. Bad news around physical activity is bad news around heart health. The heart is a muscle. It needs to be worked to be fit and well, like your other muscles. Unfortunately, people of Māori and Pacific ethnicity were more likely to have done little or no physical activity in the past seven days than others [No, they're not talking about the last seven days as in last week. Obviously only the mad would have got out to do physical activity in that storm].

If we consider that in relation to Aotearoa New Zealand overall, more than half of all adults (54 percent) are physically active for at least 30 minutes on five or more days per week. Men are more likely (57 percent) than woman (51 percent) to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on five or more days per week, whilst one in eight (12 percent) adults are physically active for less than 30 minutes per week. Encouragingly, Māori adults had similar levels of being physically active as other adults (this is the 'mixed' part of the bag).

What I found interesting was that doing little or no physical activity was related to neighbourhood deprivation. People living in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times as likely to have done little or no physical activity as people in the least deprived areas, after adjusting for age, sex and ethnic group. I live in Merivale, which is considered a "deprived" area. Deprivation is measured on the NZ Deprivation Index, a series of questions, the answers of which determine how much some are missing out compared to others. So fewer people were physically active in the most deprived areas (47%) than in the least deprived areas (59%). This pattern was the same for both men and women , The 12% of adults who reported that they did little or no physical activity in the past seven days is about 440,000 adults!

Given the scourge of heart disease (cardiovascular disease) in our communities, and that many of our communities would be considered deprived, we need to help and encourage our tamariki, our whānau, our friends, our neighbours and of course ourselves to up the rates of physical activity we do. Exercise can have a lot of beneficial effects, including:
  •     Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system
  •     Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
  •     Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
  •     Lower blood pressure
  •     Improve balance and joint flexibility
  •     Strengthen bones
  •     Help reduce body fat and help you reach and stay at a healthy weight
  •     Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression.

The issue is often, how to get started? Though it's been said time and again, it's as simple as stepping out of your front door for a walk, playing touch in the street with the kids, mowing your lawn (and maybe the neighbours' too); whatever it is, the important thing is to make it a new habit. It is one of the best things you can do for your heart, along with:
  •     quitting smoking
  •     Controlling high blood pressure
  •     Reducing your cholesterol level
  •     Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  •     Controlling your blood glucose if you have diabetes
  •     Eating a healthy, balanced diet and only drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

Get out and give it a go; your heart will thank you for it. Talk to your nurse, doctor or support worker at one our Ngā Mataapuna Oranga clinics.

You can read more from Graham Cameron at:

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