Have a heart

More than 175,000 New Zealanders live with some form of heart condition, and almost 10,000 people die from cardiovascular disease each year.

Almost a quarter of those deaths are avoidable, according to the New Zealand Heart Foundation, which has for more than four years been lobbying for a national heart health action plan. Many of the deaths are because people simply do not have access to existing treatment options.

A Heart Foundation White Paper Healthy hearts, healthy nation, published in June 2023, proposed that a national action plan would reduce the rate of avoidable heart disease mortality and morbidity for all New Zealanders by at least 50% by 2050. Being active, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy diet are three essentials, the foundation says, for good heart health.

Being physically active is a major step toward good heart health, considered by many prestigious medical organisations worldwide to be one of the most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle, keeping weight under control, and preventing artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure, all of which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

When it comes to healthy eating, the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation says it is important to remember that humans need different foods at certain times of their lives. Referencing the New Zealand health ministry’s guidelines, the foundation recommends adults eat a variety of foods every day from four food groups, fruit and vegetables, grains, milk and milk products, and legumes and nuts.

Kiwi adults should choose foods, drinks and snacks lower in fat, salt and added sugar, and use cooking methods such as grilling, baking, or microwaving, instead of frying.

Recommendations include:

  • Drink around 6-8 glasses of fluid each day. Fluids such as water,  milk, tea, coffee and sugar-free soft drinks are good choices. Avoid fruit juice, energy, soft and sports drinks with a high  sugar content.
  • At least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day.
  • At least 6 serves of grains each day, choosing mainly wholegrain options.
  • 2-3 serves of milk products per day.
  • 2 or more servings daily of legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and other seafood, eggs, poultry, and/or lean red meat.


1 serve is usually half a cup, 1 slice grain foods, 2 slices of meat.

The Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand recommends no more than 15 standard drinks of alcohol per week for men or 10 standard drinks for women. This means a daily limit of 3 standard drinks for men, and 2 standard drinks for women. A ‘standard drink’ is an 100ml glass of wine, 330ml can of beer and 30ml measure of spirits.

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