With cardiovascular disease being the biggest cause of mortality and premature death in Ireland it’s important to know what causes it and how we can take responsibility for our own health by making some simple changes to our diet and lifestyle. Many people associate this disease with age but the truth is that the changes leading to cardiovascular disease start to occur in the first decade of life meaning that you’re never too young to start thinking about your health. The good thing for anyone that may already have risk factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol is that these can be treated with dietary and lifestyle changes – you just have to be strict with yourself! To help you keep a healthy heart, here’s a few simple changes you can implement now:
Regular exercise is a major protective factor against coronary heart disease and stroke. It has favourable effects on blood lipids, obesity, hypertension, glucose tolerance and stress which all play a role in the development of cardiovascular heart disease. Adults need to be fitting in 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise. It can be broken up into shorter bursts throughout the day. If you’re struggling with sore muscles after a workout why not try some Epsom bath salts or magnesium spray which may help ease the pain.
Reduce your saturated and trans fat intake
Not all fats are bad and we actually do need certain fats to make and repair cells and tissues. People often associate fat intake with high cholesterol levels however diet has very little impact on raising cholesterol but can help lower it. The main fats to avoid are saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are mainly found in meat and dairy products so chose lean cuts and low-fat milks. Trans fats, the worst type as they lower the “good” type of cholesterol and raise the “bad” type are found mainly in baked and fried foods so limit your intake of these. Labels are often misleading as regards trans fats so avoid foods that contain “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredient list. The best oil to cook with is rapeseed oil and dress salads with olive oil.
Snack on Almonds
Studies have shown that almonds can help lower cholesterol and reduce weight when eaten daily. Almonds contain good fats, protein, fibre, nutrients and phytochemicals. Grab a handful of almonds (about 30g or 20 almonds) and eat alone as a snack, sprinkle on salads, throw into a stir-fry, grind them up and sprinkle on your breakfast or make your own nut butter to help you get them into your diet.
Fish Oil Supplements
Omega-3, the type of fatty acid found in oily fish is a polyunsaturated fat. It has huge benefits for heart health by reducing triglyceride levels and being an anti-inflammatory. Even though we live on an island with a huge fishing industry, as a population we don’t eat nearly enough fish as we should. If you don’t like fish then you could consider taking a fish oil supplement. Vegetarian and vegans can look for supplements containing omega 3.
Modern day living is stressful, and we all know it! But stress causes our body to produce stress hormones which increase blood pressure and heart rate. Over the long term this isn’t good for our health so we need to learn to relax more but finding out how to do this can be stressful too! Exercise is by far the best method, switching off the phone and getting lost in a book or TV show can be good too. More and more people are using mindfulness colouring books as a way to relax in the evenings. So switch off and sit down with a cup of caffeine free tea, or, if you want to be more adventurous you might like to try matcha green tea which contains an amino acid called L-theanine which may have some beneficial effects on anxiety.