Herbfacts
Close up of a woman holding a large red heart

Look after your heart

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. But there are many ways you can reduce your risk.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some of her dietary tips for keeping heart healthy.

The World Heart Federation (WHF) raises awareness around the world about heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading causes of death, taking 17.3 million lives annually across the globe. The cause of both conditions is often due to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the artery walls) or the blood becoming too thick, leading to blood clots.

The WHF claims that a staggering 80% of premature deaths can be avoided by moderating four main risk factors: smoking, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and excess alcohol.

Here are a few changes you can make to your lifestyle to make it more heart friendly.

EAT MORE OILY FISH

Firstly, and probably, most importantly, intake of foods containing saturated fats needs to be reduced; this means red meat, butter, cheese, cakes and pastries. Also avoid too many meals containing fried foods. Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon should be consumed two to three times per week; they contain omega 3 fatty acids, which help to thin the blood.  If you’re vegetarian or don’t like fish, taking a supplement containing fish oils or flaxseeds, which are also high in omega-3s, is a great option

INCREASE FOODS CONTAINING VITAMIN C

Fatty deposits can develop on the arteries, which then harden, leading to arteriosclerosis.  However, much of this damage can be avoided or reduced by including sufficient vitamin C in the diet, so increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.  They are high in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, which can help prevent artery damage.

Fruits and vegetables are also high in calcium, magnesium and potassium, which help to relax the artery wall, thus reducing blood pressure and other heart-related risk factors.  Try to eat a rainbow diet, which means including as many different coloured foods on your plate as possible.

EAT MORE GARLIC

Including garlic in your diet as much as possible (and as much as your friends and family can bear) is a great idea.  Even better, taking a supplement containing garlic should become part of your daily routine.  Garlic has shown remarkable blood-thinning properties as well as the ability to reduce blood pressure.

REDUCE YOUR INTAKE OF REFINED FOODS

This is where food labels become very helpful. Many foods such as biscuits, cakes, cereal bars, and margarines contain trans fats.  These are chemically altered fats which are a cheap form of fat used for taste and spread-ability, in the case of margarines.  Unfortunately, the body cannot process these ‘alien’ substances and they also stop the metabolism of healthy omega 3 fats needed for blood thinning.  Unfortunately, many foods within our daily diet contain trans fats so try to eat them only on special occasions rather than on a daily basis.

It’s not about a life of denial but about making some long term dietary and lifestyle changes which could literally save your life.