Healthy Eating

Eating a healthy diet is one of the biggest steps you can take to prevent problems with your heart, and many other medical conditions.

Watching what you eat reduces your chance of developing heart disease, and also protects your heart from further problems if you have already been diagnosed with a condition.

Eating healthily helps you lose weight, which means reducing the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. A good diet also helps prevent blood clots and fatty deposits building up in your arteries.

Fruit and vegetables

Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg every day has many health benefits from helping to lose weight to maintaining a good balance of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Doctors are all agreed that eating fruit and veg, whether fresh, frozen, dried or tinned and cooked or raw, helps reduce the heart of heart disease.

For more information, visit the NHS Five A Day website here

Fats

Food that is high in saturated fat, such as cream, butter and cheese, leads to a build up of cholesterol, one of the major causes of coronary heart disease.

To help your heart stay healthy, cut back on the total amount of fat you eat and replace saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in food such as nuts and seeds and olive oil.

Eating oily fish (see next section), high fibre foods and taking regular exercise are all ways of cutting down on cholesterol.

Oily fish

Oily fish is full of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat that can help lower your risk of heart disease.

As part of your healthy diet, you should aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, and make one portion an oily fish, such as mackerel, trout or salmon.

Making this small change to your diet could improve your chances of survival after a heart attack.

For a list of oily fish, visit the Food Standards website here.

Alcohol

Although most of us enjoy an occasional drink, too much alcohol is one of the major causes of heart diseases.

Too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contributes to weight gain and damage to your heart muscle, all contributory factors in coronary disease.

  • Guidelines show that men should drink no more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day.
  • Women should drink no more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day.

Despite a common belief that red wine can offer benefits over and above other alcohol, there is little evidence to support this.

Salt

Those of us with a large amount of salt in our diet are far more likely to develop high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease or having a heart attack.

It is the sodium in the salt leads to high blood pressure.

Most of us eat far more salt than we actually need. Adults should have no more than six grams of salt a day, which is about one teaspoonful. 

Things you can do to reduce your salt intake include:

  • Don’t add salt to your food at the table
  • Cook without adding any salt
  • Cut down on processed food that contains high levels of salt
  • Look for salt content on food packaging – most labels now carry this information
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