Condition-specific advice

Tailored advice about physical activity, nutrition and sleep health for a range of conditions.


Physical activity advice

  • Recommend your patient builds up to walking for an average of 30 minutes a day to lower their risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by 30 to 40 per cent 1. The Heart Foundation’s personal walking plans can support your patient in getting started or finding find a local social group to walk with.

  • If suitable, recommend higher-intensity aerobic exercise and moderate-intensity resistance training for cholesterol management.2

  • If your patient has recently had a heart attack, angina, a coronary angioplasty or heart surgery, it’s important that your patient starts slowly, and gradually builds up to this level of activity over time.3

  • After an acute myocardial infarction it is recommended that patients attend a supervised cardiac rehab program, including virtual programs,to ensure they are exercising at a safe level.3

Nutrition advice

  • Your patient may want to follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to significantly improve their blood pressure, even if they don’t lose weight.

  • Eating a Mediterranean diet may also be recommended to hypertensive patients as it has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

  • Recommend patients reduce their salt intake to improve their blood pressure.4

  • Advise your patients to eat more fruit and vegetables to reduce their risks of stroke and cardiovascular disease.5

  • Encourage dietary change by getting patients to lower saturated fat consumption and increase plant sterol consumption to lower their serum cholesterol.6

Sleep health advice

  • Circadian timing that aligns with the light-dark cycle is essential for good sleep health and suboptimal timing can affect mental health, cardiovascular function, metabolism, and other elements of overall health.7

  • Physical activity, including mind-body exercises like Tai Chi and more vigorous exercise like cycling has been found to be beneficial for sleep across different age groups and health and fitness levels.8

  • Advise patients with cardiovascular disease to develop habits around:
    • Sleep quantity - aiming for between seven and nine hours
    • Sleep consistency - aiming to go sleep and waking up around the same time.

  • If your patient is interested in developing better sleep health habits or if they are experiencing periodic episodes of suboptimal sleep, share healthdirect's sleep hygiene practices.

  • There are strong links between sleep apnoea and heart disease and hypertension and between insomnia and hypertension.9

  • Ensure patients are informed about common sleep disorder symptoms and encourage them to advise you if they experience these symptoms. Untreated sleep problems can significantly affect both quality of life and overall health.

Medication advice

  • When managing patients with cardiovascular disease, be mindful that some medications can affect their weight and diet, especially beta-blockers. Weight loss can be more challenging for overweight hypertensive patients who are on this medication.10

  • Also be mindful of medications prescribed to manage a patient’s weight may affect their cardiovascular system. For example, Phentermine can cause tachycardia so it should not be used in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease. GLP-1 agonists may be a more suitable option.11

  1. Heart Foundation Walking. (2021). Personal Walking Plans. Heart Foundation. Link to website
  2. Mann, S., Beedie, C., & Jimenez, A. (2014). Differential effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training and combined exercise modalities on cholesterol and the lipid profile: review, synthesis and recommendations. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)44(2), 211–221. Link to journal article
  3. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (2016). Exercise based rehabilitation for coronary heart disease. Handbook of Non-Drug Interventions. Link to Handbook
  4. He, F. J., & MacGregor, G. A. (2002). Effect of modest salt reduction on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Implications for public health. Journal of human hypertension16(11), 761–770. Link to journal article
  5. Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, Loria CM, Vupputuri S, Myers L, & Whelton K (2002). Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease in US adults: the first National health and nutrition examination survey epidemiologic follow-up study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76: 93-99. Link to journal article
  6. Clifton, P., Colquhoun, D., Hewat, C., Jones, P., Litt, J., Noakes, M., O'Brien, R., Shrapnel, B., & Skeaff, M. (2009). Dietary intervention to lower serum cholesterol. Australian family physician38(6), 424–429. Link to Journal article
  7. Agannath, A., Taylor, L., Wakaf, Z., Vasudevan, S. R., & Foster, R. G. (2017). The genetics of circadian rhythms, sleep and health. Human molecular genetics, 26(R2), R128-R138. Link to journal article
  8. Albakri, U., Drotos, E., & Meertens, R. (2021). Sleep health promotion interventions and their effectiveness: an umbrella review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(11), 5533. Link to article
  9. Australasian Sleep Association. (2022). Chronic Insomnia / Insomnia Disorder - Co-morbid Insomnia. Link to website
  10. Pischon, T., & Sharma, A. M. (2001). Use of beta-blockers in obesity hypertension: potential role of weight gain. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 2(4), 275-280. Link to journal article
  11. Lee, P. C., & Dixon, J. (2017). Pharmacotherapy for obesity. Australian family physician, 46(7), 472-477. Link to journal article

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