ARE YOU HEART HEALTHY?
Did you know???
1 in 6 Australian adults have been diagnosed with some form of heart disease, putting the disease as the leading cause of death in Australia. It is quite a confronting statistic, putting it into perspective that’s approximately 4.2 million people who suffer from this terrible disease, with approximately 40 000 losing their lives to it every single year.
The even scarier thing is however is that 80% of these heart disease cases in Australia are preventable. And you picked it… the only way we are changing this statistic is by altering our lifestyle choices. It is the most theoretically simple, yet most practically difficult solution that our nation must work towards.
Our hearts are key!! Obviously, like why else they are located in the center of our bodies. They keep us functioning by transporting oxygenated blood and nutrients all around the body, as well as maintaining healthy tissues, assisting with respiratory functions and muscular contraction. I could talk all day about what our heart does for us, but I think you get the picture, and there’s plenty of textbooks out there that can give you all the heart knowledge you need.
So….. What changes can you make to give your heart a helping hand?
- It’s all about the fats…THE RIGHT FATS
Don’t be fooled by the different types of fats in food. The fats we want to reduce are saturated fats and trans fats, which normally come from your highly processed, fast food or confectionary food options, otherwise known as discretionary or “sometimes foods”. On the other hand, 20-35% of energy intake from food must come from fats. This percentage comes from the other side of the spectrum, the good unsaturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids, normally obtained from nuts, legumes and of course…avocados. The overall goal to keep that heart working hard and efficiently is to reduce the saturated and trans fats as this can lower LDL cholesterol “the bad cholesterol”, preventing clogged arteries and keeping the blood flowing smoothly without resistance.
- Yes Wholegrains aren’t for nothing
Wholegrain food choices are the way to go. Don’t be fooled that they are usually higher calorie options. They’re higher for a good reason, as they provide more nutritional benefit, by being richer in fibre, as well as by providing the additional benefit of reducing sugar cravings and keeping you fuller for longer.
- Eat your fruits and vegetables kids! Not for nothing!
This is very key to preventing heart disease. Fruit and vegetables provide essential dietary fibre to our diets, as well as valuable antioxidants and phytochemicals that help boost our immune system to fight off disease.
- Cutting back on salt
Excess amounts of sodium in our diet has been proven to increase our risk of heart disease. This is because it plays a huge roll in raising our blood pressure levels. This is when reading food labels can come into play. We are often fooled by products labelled as “low-fat” or “reduced cholesterol” options. When you see this, be sure to take a look at the sodium content because you may just be surprised.
- Increase plant sterols
What are plant sterols you may ask? Well they are a very valuable component of plant sources of food that do a fantastic job of blocking the absorption of cholesterol from food in your gut. This in turn prevents high levels of cholesterol building up in the blood, and hence lowers cholesterol levels. So, I definitely wouldn’t disregard them and keep them in mind.
Where are they found?
- Derived mainly from small amounts of plant food sources such as nuts, seeds, whole-grains and plant based oils
6. Cut back on the grog
Everyone likes a drink to clock off a long day at work. And it would be wrong to deny anyone a life that they can enjoy. Moderation is the key as many have stated. Keep it to 2 standard drinks per occasion, per night out with the guys or the girls, per birthday party. Alcohol intake and specifically excess alcohol intake increases blood cholesterol levels and overall increases your heart disease risk. So let’s not make our hearts job harder, take more conscious action now, it’s never to late to make a few changes.
7. Keep moving!
This is a pretty standard rule of thumb but is always good to mention. Individuals who participate in regular physical activity has been proven to increase levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. So, if you don’t have time to exercise, and nobody is saying to wake up at 5am and go run a marathon, but the benefits of additional exercise and physical activity for at least 30min a day are endless. Trust me it’s worthwhile in the long run for your body and overall wellbeing to make that extra time in the day.