When I was a child I thought that all you had to do to prevent heart disease was avoid salt and greasy fry up’s and I’d look rather scornfully at my mother as she dished up another Friday night meal of egg and chips. It is a good idea to avoid excessive sodium and trans -fats in your diet, medical research has come a long way in the last few decades in understanding the causes of heart disease. Here are some of the ways you can help keep your heart healthy.
- Reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol contributes to the formation of plaque which furs up and blocks arteries. Narrowed arteries can block blood flow to the heart and cause heart attack or stroke. LDL cholesterol comes from foods such as red meats, whole fat dairy products like milk, butter, full fat yogurt, ice cream and processed foods with hydrogenated fats like cakes, biscuits, crisps and ready-made frozen items.
- Get plenty of HDL (good) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is beneficial because it removes the LDL variety from the arteries. People with low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol have an increased risk of heart disease. You can find HDL in foods like nuts, olive oil, oily fish, avocado, oats, apples and other fibrous fruit.
- Exercise! Physical activity prompts the body to produce more HDL cholesterol. Exercise advice is sometimes off putting to people who might think they have to go to the gym in order to get fit, but the duration of exercise is more important than the intensity so if you’re not very active, taking up a gentle yoga class, walking or aquarobics can make all the difference to your heart.
- Consider having your blood pressure checked regularly as high blood pressure can cause heart disease. As blood is forced through the arteries at great pressure, the heart has to beat faster. Prolonged high blood pressure can weaken the heart and cause congestive heart failure and heart attack or stroke.
- Get screened! You can have extra peace of mind by having state of the art cardiac testing from Cardiac Screen. Cardiac Screen can tailor a care package to your needs and provide ECG’s, cardiac event monitoring, blood pressure checks, palpitation assessments and more. Having screening is important, particularly if you have a family history of heart disease or you are a man. Men have a higher risk of heart disease.
- Don’t take up smoking or get help to quit if you already do. Coronary heart disease risk is up to four times higher than non-smokers and they too can get heart disease if they breathe in your cigarette smoke.
- Reduce your sugar intake. While ‘bad’ saturated fats have traditionally taken the blame for the rising obesity epidemic, sugar may play a bigger role than previously thought. Fructose, an added sugar, can cause uric acid generation and oxidative stress that stimulates fat accumulation even if the person doesn’t consume excessive calories. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease.