Heart disease is very common in Australia, affecting 1 in 6 Australians. There are a number of factors that can increase the risk. Ones that can’t be changed include family history, gender (males are at increased risk) and age. Ones that can be changed include lifestyle factors, such as weight, diet, exercise, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and alcohol. The good news is that by making some simple lifestyle changes, risk can be minimised.
Follow these simple changes to reduce your risk:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals, are low in fat and high in fibre. Adults should have 2 serves of fruit and at least 5 serves of vegetables per day.
• Aim to fill half your plate with salad or vegetables at dinner
• Add chopped apple, banana or canned fruit in natural juice to breakfast cereals
Increase your fibre
Fibre helps to lower cholesterol, keep you feeling fuller for longer and maintain healthy digestion. Aim for 30g of fibre each day.
• Choose wholegrain bread for your sandwich at lunch instead of white
• Leave the skin on fruit and veggies where possible
Eat more good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
These help to raise ‘good’ cholesterol and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. Nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, oily fish and vegetable oils like olive, canola, rapeseed oil are rich in good fats and should be included in your diet in small amounts, each day.
• Aim for 2-3 serves of oily fish such as salmon and tuna per week
• Have a small handful of unsalted nuts and seeds for a tasty snack
Eat less bad fats (saturated fat)
Saturated fat raises cholesterol levels, so it is best to avoid it and replace with good fats. Butter, cream, skin on chicken and visible fat on meat, processed meats and some takeaways and packaged foods contain saturated fat.
• Swap butter for margarine or avocado and swap full-fat dairy for reduced-fat
• Poach, steam, grill or stir-fry with a little olive or canola oil instead of frying foods in butter
Consume more antioxidants
A diet rich in antioxidants can help support a healthy heart. Antioxidants are found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as in tea, coffee and red wine.
• Choose a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables each day to get an antioxidant boost
Maintain a healthy weight
A healthy weight usually helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. To do this you must balance the energy from the food you eat with the amount of activity you do.
• Choose a variety of foods from the 5 food groups in the right amounts each day
Cut back on salt
Too much salt, or sodium chloride, can increase blood pressure.
• Look for ‘no added salt’ and ‘low sodium’ variety of products• Add herbs and spices, garlic, chilli and lemon juice to your dishes for flavor instead of using salt.
Physical activity has many heart health benefits and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Every person should do 30 minutes of high intensity exercise per day.
• Break up your exercise into three 10 minute sessions over the day if needed, many people are short on time but if you can still find short bursts to raise you heart rate you can achieve the same outcome.
• Gardening, walking the dog or playing with the kids in the park are fun, simple ways to be active.
Stress can impact your heart health. So take it easy!
• Exercising is a great way to de-stress. Organise a designated weekly walk time with a buddy.
• Get enough sleep. Try to get 6-8 hours per night.
For more information regarding healthy eating to manage and prevent heart conditions, come and see one of our Optimum Dietitians.