1 in 6 people in Australia are affected by heart disease and it kills someone every 12 minutes. So how can you reduce your risk of heart disease? Well, some things can’t be changed like your family history, genes, age or gender. However, you can modify your lifestyle to improve your heart health.
Here are the top 7 tips to improve heart health.
(1) Eat more fibre
Fibre is a type of indigestible carbohydrate that keeps your heart in check by reducing your cholesterol (particularly triglycerides – a form of fat). This in turn, reduces the risk of arteries or veins blockages and the less chance you have of experiencing a heart attack.
Fruit, veg, nuts, legumes and wholegrains are all foods rich in fibre. Oats and barley contain soluble fibre which is known to lower cholesterol. Often psyllium husks are “prescribed” by cardiologists and dietitians to those at high risk, but why not throw some into a smoothie or on your breakfast for an extra fibre hit.
Did you know: Fibrates are a type of prescription medication used to reduce blood triglyceride levels by using the same binding function as fibre!
(2) Switch fats
Instead of focusing on having a lower fat diet, the idea now is to simply change the TYPE of fats. Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol and are found in animal fats and products, butter, baked products, pastries and many processed foods. Switching these sources of fat for the heart healthy fats like avocado, nut & seed oils, olive oil and of course, fish oil – can actually undo all the damage done on your heart by the less healthy fats!
(3) Eat more oily fish
Oily fish such as salmon, trout and tuna are packed with heart healthy fats which actually increase the good cholesterol in your blood! Other fish and seafood also contain those helpful omega-3s which also have anti-inflammatory properties. The Heart Foundation recommends eating fish or seafood 2-3 times a week will help improve your heart health.
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(4) Reduce salt
76% of Australian men and 42% of Australian women exceed the UPPER limit of sodium which is 1 teaspoon of salt a day. Salt is a key factor in raising blood pressure. Higher blood pressure (or hypertension) this puts more pressure on your arteries to work harder to pump the blood. In combination with narrow arteries from high saturated fat diet is a major concern for heart health. Reducing salt can be tough because it makes your food taste better, but slowly reducing added salt to your food and opting for no added salt products (especially in the canned foods aisle) is a great place to start and using herbs and spices as flavouring.
(5) Eat more legumes
Legumes are filled with loads of fibre, and plant protein without any of the fat found in animal foods! This is why the Heart Foundation recommends including 2-3 legume or bean meals in your week. For more reasons why legumes are the real “superfoods”, check out this post.
(6) Move your body
Getting your blood pumping for 30 minutes each day is another important way to improve your heart health. Cardio reduces your bad cholesterol and raises the good kind plus it lowers blood pressure!
(7) What about red wine?!
Probably the one you’re dying to hear about. Red wine is filled with antioxidants which can improve the elasticity of your artery walls. However, if you’re not a drinker the research states not to pick up the habit, it’s hard to balance the negative effects of alcohol on other organs against the small positive gain on heart health. If you are already drinking wine, opt for red when you can.
References: Heart Foundation Australia