Prevention is better than cure. You can reduce many of the risks linked to heart related conditions by changing your lifestyle and diet. Know your risk factors and how best to manage them, and be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet helps your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. More details below.
Regular moderate exercise is beneficial for your heart, weight, blood pressure, overall health and wellbeing.
Achieving a healthy BMI, and maintaining it decreases your risk of heart disease and a many other health related problems.
Stop smoking now! It is never too late. Not smoking is one of the best ways you can help your health.
Blood pressure, Diabetes, and Cholesterol
Have regular check-ups, follow your doctor’s advice and take prescribed medications. If you suffer from hypertension, diabetes, or dyslipidaemia, know your targets for blood pressure, HbA1c, and cholesterol levels.
Your diet affects your heart as well as several heart disease risk factors, including:
Eat a wide variety of foods. Fresh and unprocessed food is always better and can be good for your heart.
A diet naturally low in unhealthy fats (such as animal fats or saturated fats), salt and added sugar, and rich in wholegrains, fibre, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats (such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) is ideal.
Follow the Heart Foundation 5-step heart-healthy eating pattern to help you achieve this balance (https://www.heartfoundation.org.au):
Healthy eating can help protect your heart and prevent you from developing heart disease.
Focus on the different foods you eat regularly over days, weeks and months.
Follow our heart healthy eating pattern to help make healthy choices.
How much you eat is also important.
1. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains
Fruit and vegetables are some of the best foods for your heart, and contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. These foods have been shown to help prevent heart disease.
Wholegrains are foods like brown rice, wholemeal pasta, grainy bread and oats. These foods are full of fibre and can help lower your cholesterol. Swapping from refined grains like white bread and white rice to wholegrain versions is a simple change that can improve your diet.
2. Include a variety of healthy protein-rich foods
Some protein-rich foods are better choices than others. The best options are plant-based proteins like beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds, as well as fish and seafood. These foods have been shown to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Eggs and poultry are also protein-rich foods that can be enjoyed as part of a heart-healthy eating pattern.
If you eat red meat, it’s best to limit it to 1-3 meals per week as research shows it may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
3. Choose unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese
These foods don’t increase or decrease your risk of heart disease, but they can be an important source of calcium, protein and other minerals.
Unflavoured versions with no added sugar are the healthiest options.
If you have heart disease or high cholesterol, reduced-fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese are healthier options. For those who don’t, you can choose between reduced-fat or full-fat alternatives.
4. Include healthy fats and oils
Fats and oils can play an important role in your risk of developing heart disease. Different types of fats can impact your health differently. Healthy fats can help protect your heart, and unhealthy fats can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Choose foods with high amounts of healthy fats such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds, and use healthy oils for cooking, for example, olive, canola, sunflower, peanut and soybean oil. These foods can help lower your cholesterol.
5. Use herbs and spices to flavour foods instead of salt
Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Many people don’t realise that most of the salt they eat is found in processed and packaged foods such as canned foods, deli meats, and baked goods.
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of salt you eat is to base your diet on fresh, unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables. If you want to add extra flavour to your food, try adding herbs and spices.
Highly processed food is bad for your heart. It has been reported that up to 35 per cent of the average Australian diet is made up of highly processed foods, such as:
Baked goods e.g. cakes, biscuits and pastries
Sugary drinks e.g. soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks
Take away food e.g. pizza, burgers.
These foods are usually high in added sugar, salt, and bad fats. Try to have these foods only sometimes and in small amounts.
Control your portions, don’t over-eat
How much you eat is a very important part of healthy eating habits. The size of our meals has grown over time. Balanced diet in controlled portions ad proportions is the ideal target.
Focus on quality and quantity.