As February is National Heart Month, I thought I would share a little about our heart health and food — keep on reading for some quick and simple swaps we can make to support our heart health this month and for the future.
What is cardiovascular disease?
Currently, in the UK approximately 7.6 million people are living with Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD), and globally it is the most common cause of mortality. CVD is the term given to a group of conditions that affect our heart and/ or blood vessels.
We can’t modify all risk factors such as ageing and genetics. However, small lifestyle changes can reduce other risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, and these changes can make a large difference in our long-term risk of CVD.
Helping reduce our risk.
Increase our fibre intake. Fibre can help to reduce our LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. It is recommended for adults to aim for 30g of fibre per day however latest figures suggest that the average daily intake of fibre for UK adults is 18g. We can increase our fibre intake by swapping white grains for wholemeal alternatives; try to include more legumes such as tinned lentils and chickpeas and aim to have five a day.
Include foods rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are an antioxidant that are found in several plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, tea, and spices, and evidence shows they may help protect against CVD. Consumption of polyphenols is in line with the governments recommendations to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, remember this includes fresh, frozen and tinned!
Swap in unsaturated fats as an alternative to saturated fats. Unsatuated fats, in particular, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) (found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts and seeds, and oily fish) has been shown to reduce CVD risk. Whereas diets high in saturated fats (such as butter and animal fats) are associated with increased CVD risk. Consider swapping in an unsaturated fat such as extra virgin olive oil instead of a saturated fat like butter.
A high salt intake is associated with increased blood pressure, which is a risk factor for CVD. It is recommended for adults to aim for no more than 6g of salt per day, however, research suggests the average daily intake of salt in adults in England is 8.4g/ day. The majority of salt in our diets is often found in pre-made products, so it is something to be aware of.
Regular movement has been shown to reduce our risk of CVDs by up to 35%, so try including movement we enjoy into our routines, whether that is dancing, a long walk, running, strength training, yoga, or anything else you enjoy!
A final note
These are all tips to help reduce our risk of CVD, not to treat or prevent it. It is important to include balanced in our life, and while it is important to reduce our saturated fat and salt intake for our heart health, these can still have a place as part of a balanced, and sustainable diet.
For further information, these resources may help:
* National Health Service. Cardiovascular Disease.
* British Heart Foundation. Information and Support.