29 Feb, 2024

Creating better habits for your heart

Exercising in green park mixed ages running up hill

We are fortunate our daily habits are all within our control. They can be changed or altered whenever we choose to. It’s really good to check in with ourselves regularly just to be sure we’re making the healthy choices that will keep our hearts happy. 

There are several daily routines which can increase or reduce the risk of heart disease. So, to help keep that risk low, these daily choices need to be ones that will nurture our physical health and wellbeing.   

Holo pe tu’u he ko e ngalu e fasi – Stand firm and the waves will break.

A Tongan saying that reminds us to be patient and good will come.

Changing and committing to a new, healthier routine can be challenging especially at the beginning, but it’s never too late to start and it will get easier as you go.

We’ve had a good look at the Heart Foundation’s website and compiled some information on some of the habits that will help to lower your risk of heart disease.    

1. Being Active  

Physical activity includes any type of movement you do. From walking to cleaning the house or gardening, the more you move the better. 


Any physical activity you do will improve your heart health, and your overall health. Being more active will: 

  • help your heart 
  • improve your sleep 
  • help your mental health 
  • reduce stress 
  • manage your blood pressure 
  • manage your weight. 

Sit less 

The more time you spend sitting, the worse it is for your heart health. If you can break up long periods of sitting and replace it with any type of physical activity whenever you can, it will help your heart.  

Sit less and move more to improve your heart health

How to sit less 

  • Get off the bus or train a stop earlier. 
  • Park further away from work, the shops or when dropping the kids off at school. 
  • At work, try to move about more. You could visit a colleague instead of sending an email or have a standing meeting.  
  • Plan movement when you usually sit down, like going for a walk in the evening.  

How much physical activity is healthy?

Try to do at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week.

1) 150 minutes a week moderate-intensity physical activity 

Moderate-intensity activity should make you breathe harder than normal. This could be: 

  • 10 minutes vacuuming, 20 minutes of dancing, 60 minutes of gardening and 60 minutes of walking across one week 
  • 2 minutes of climbing stairs, 10-minute walk around the block and 10 minutes of cleaning everyday 
  • a 30-minute walk on 5 days of the week. 

2) 75 minutes a week vigorous intensity physical activity 

When you do vigorous physical activity, it's hard to say more than a few words. This could include: 

  • a 20-minute run on four days of the week 
  • a 40-minute exercise class like HIIT on two days of the week. 
Physical activity graph the heart foundation

The Fono’s FREE exercise classes 

The Fono offers free and friendly community exercise classes in various locations across West Auckland, for everyone who wants to be more active and have fun doing it. Check out our locations and class schedules here: 

Click HERE to head over to the Heart Foundation's website for more info on physical activity like:

  • What counts 
  • How much
  • How to start
  • Staying safe
  • The difference between exercise and physical activity
  • The Heart Foundation's recommendations

NOTE: If you have a heart condition, or other medical condition 

Talk with your doctor before you start to do more physical activity. Ask them for advice on the type of activity you could do, and how much you should do. Visit this directory to find your nearest heart support group.  

Click HERE for more info about being active including -  

  • Exercise after a heart attack 
  • Finding a cardiac support group 
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation 
  • To read the Heart Foundation of New Zealand’s Physical activity, sedentary behaviour and heart health - position statement 

2. Eating (and drinking)

What we eat really does contribute to the overall health of our heart. By being aware and making healthy daily food choices, we are well on the road to improving our heart health and reducing our risk of heart disease.    

For lots of tips and ideas on how to improve or how to get started on your healthy eating journey, check out these links.

All About Healthy Eating by the Heart Foundation

Eating for a Healthy Heart - The Fono's Resource page

Alcohol and the heart

It's no secret that drinking alcohol puts your health at risk. But how does it affect your heart? The Heart Foundation offers plenty of advice, tips, and ideas to help you reduce or remove alcohol.

Click HERE for more info on how alcohol affects the heart.

3. Quitting Smoking  

Do you know how smoking affects your heart health?  Quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart health and overall health too.  There is plenty of FREE, friendly and professional support available to help you to quit successfully. Click on these links for more.  


4. Managing stress  

Stress, anxiety and worry are all part of life and quite normal for us to experience at times. However, if this period of feeling stressed out, worried or anxious goes on for a long time (longer than 3 months), it can have a serious impact on your health. 

Stress that continues for a long time will cause your adrenaline levels to be high in your body. This causes your blood sugar and blood pressure to increase. It also makes your muscles tense. All these things increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Here are some tips from the Heart Foundation that can help you to manage your stress better. 

Support from The Fono's Healthy Minds - LagiOla team

Stress is normal. It can make us feel tired and grumpy. It's part of being human. But if it overwhelms you, it can have a huge impact on your life, even making you feel physically sick. LagiOla can support you to deal with this. 

If you need support to help you to manage your stress better, reach out to us by filling in a form here -  

5. Managing your weight 

As we get older, our weight changes. Keeping at a healthy weight can really help to reduce your risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. 

To stay at a healthy weight for your heart, follow the Heart Foundation’s recommendations. They also share more helpful info about body weight, how it changes with age and how it affects heart health. Read all about how to manage your weight HERE.

6. Other things that can help to manage the risks of heart disease are: 

  • Managing high blood pressure 
  • Managing high cholesterol 
  • Managing diabetes 
  • Managing heart medication 
  • Exploring complementary therapies for heart health 
  • Learning how to check your pulse 
  • Understanding what a heart check is 

More more on managing these other risks, head over to the Heart Foundation's website HERE.

‘My Heart Check’ 

The Heart Foundation NZ has an online heart check tool which will estimate your heart attack risk and your 'heart age'. It will tell when to visit your doctor for a heart check and gives tips on how to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. 

My Heart Check estimates your heart age and shares tips to help improve your heart health. My Heart Check doesn’t offer medical advice. Please talk to your doctor if you're worried about your heart. 

'My Heart Check' is for people aged between 30 and 75 years. If you are younger or order than this, you can still use it, however your results may not be as accurate.

If you think you have heart attack symptoms, call 111 now. 

To do the ‘My Heart Check’ click HERE

Young pacific man in park with family

Remember you’re creating these better habits for your long-term health and well-being.  Do it for yourself and for your whānau too - in fact, why not do it together!

You and your family will never regret the effort you made to support each other to live a healthier lifestyle.