Heart health and the importance of taking care of yourself became very apparent for New South Wales resident, Rob McCluskey, now 67, when he suffered a heart attack in 2015 while moving house.

Ending up in the Royal North Shore Hospital, Rob was unaware of what had happened or the fact that he had just received a stent to help fix a 98% blockage of his artery.

The incident saw Rob take on various healthy habits in the years since and he is proof diet and exercise play a huge part in having good health and wellbeing, particularly as we get older. The impacts of poor heart health are unfortunately felt by many.

“I realised if I want to sort myself out, I’m going to have to take care of myself. I was on my second life already!”

“It turned out 22 of my 322 Facebook friends had also had experiences with heart disease. Almost 7% of my group of friends! That’s how common it is.”

In April 2020, Rob underwent bypass surgery where he experienced some setbacks. But focusing on maintaining his healthy habits, Rob leads an active social life filled with activities including golf, pétanque and body surfing multiple times a week.

Heart Foundation Senior Food & Nutrition Advisor, Jemma O’Hanlon, said making an effort to tweak parts of your daily life can help improve your lifestyle and heart health. Jemma’s tips for healthy eating include:

  • Upping your intake of potassium-rich fruit and vegetables to help lower blood pressure
  • Enjoying more healthy fats from salmon, avocado and nuts to help lower cholesterol
  • Snacking on high protein foods such as Greek yoghurt pre or post-exercise
  • Adding grains and legumes to bulk out meat dishes

“We always encourage small changes that can be adapted into people’s daily routines … Generally, that doesn’t mean giving up a favourite food entirely but rather making small swaps on a daily basis,” Jemma explained.

“The same applies to exercise, which may begin with gentle walking routines that might lead to something more strenuous in the future. Initially, however, it’s about making regular and sustainable changes.”

In terms of exercise, you don’t have to be as active as Rob to look after your health. For older people, simply walking is one of the best and easiest ways to integrate exercise into your daily routine.

“For most people, walking is an easy way to start and maintain an active lifestyle. It doesn’t require special skills, instruction or equipment and it’s free,” said Heart Foundation’s Physical Activity Senior Advisor, Elizabeth Calleja.