As we head into the new year, it’s important that we look at our health and think about any changes needed to promote a long and happy life. As we get older, this only becomes more important.
It’s well documented that getting your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day along with maintaining a balanced diet and plenty of regular exercise is good for us. But many fail to understand how important these things are when it comes to heart and circulatory health.
Heart disease is on the rise in the UK with nearly 8 million of us suffering from heart related conditions. The need has never been greater for people to take care of their tickers and prevent any conditions from developing.
Even though making changes to your daily routine or diet may seem like a daunting task, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) cites a healthy diet as one of the key defences against heart and circulatory problems. Making these changes to the way you eat is really important, even if you and your family have no history of heart problems.
To give you an idea of how you can eat well to maintain a healthy heart, we’ve put together a detailed guide to help.
Why is Heart Health Important?
Having a heart that is in good working order is essential to your overall health, after all it is one of our most important organs. Whether you are younger and looking to ensure good heart health for years to come, or you’re a little older and looking to look after yourself moving forward, there are several ways we can help our hearts when deciding what to eat.
There are almost endless benefits associated with having a healthier heart, from feeling fitter and having more energy to living longer and being able to watch your family grow. On the other hand, there are plenty of negatives to consider if you don’t make the necessary changes; type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are all common amongst people with poor heart health.
How Does Healthy Eating Help Your Heart?
Your diet is directly linked to a number of key factors that determine your heart and wider circulatory health. The most common of these are your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight. If any of these are an issue, eating a healthier diet is one of the easiest and most effective changes you can make in an effort to improve your health.
High cholesterol levels are caused when you eat foods that are high in fat as they lead to a fatty substance forming in your blood. Having too many of these fatty deposits in your bloodstream can lead to a buildup of fatty material inside your blood vessels, narrowing arteries. When this happens the risk of heart attack or stroke is greatly increased.
Similarly, high blood pressure can be attributed to having too much salt in your diet. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart attacks – around 50% of all heart attack cases are associated with it.
Eating too much sugar, on the other hand, is linked to a high-calorie diet and can lead to weight gain over time. Obesity directly increases the risk of heart attack and means you’re far more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Despite the risks of eating unhealthily, it is never too late to make a change. Improving your eating habits along with other parts of your life will help improve your heart and circulatory health and leave you feeling much better overall.
Which Foods Should You Eat to Support Heart Health?
In times gone by, many people assumed that eating a healthy diet meant flavourless food and cutting back on eating the things you enjoy. However, this simply isn’t the case anymore with recipes, ready meals and snacks all available that promote a healthy heart.
The British Heart Foundation has even put together a recipe finder that features plenty of recipes from a variety of cuisines, all of which help with heart health. For those of us with a sweet tooth, they even have a dessert section!
It’s important to remember that eating well is not about one single food or source of nutrients. It’s about forming good eating habits that include more healthy food and less of the bad stuff. Developing a healthy diet will only work if you can stick to it so there is no point completely cutting out your favourite snacks if you think you won’t.
Fruit & Veg
A healthy, balanced diet should include at least five portions of fruit or vegetables each day. This is because they are an excellent source of the vitamins and minerals our body needs to survive. Potassium, dietary fibre, vitamins A & C and folate are all important for both heart and overall well being.
Fruit and veg are also typically low in calories and saturated fat, meaning they contribute less to weight gain, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
It’s a good idea to get a mix of different fruits and vegetables in your diet to maximise their benefit. From leafy greens like spinach and kale to more substantial options like cauliflower or broccoli, there is something for everyone. Fruit can be a particularly good snack too as they contain natural sugars, helping to satisfy those cravings.
Fats & Protein
Despite the fact that too much fat raises cholesterol, a small amount is needed for a healthy diet. Fats are a great source of energy and carry vitamins A, D, E & K. The BHF recommends including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet – these can be found in foods like avocados, cashews and olive oil.
Protein is also vital to a healthy diet as it helps build and repair cells. Although people often associate protein with meats like chicken, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives for you to try. Too much red meat can raise cholesterol due to its salt and saturated fat levels so try to balance these out with protein-packed veggies like beans, chickpeas and nuts.
Carbs provide us with a useful source of energy as well as supply our bodies with a range of nutrients, like fibre, calcium and iron. We recommend swapping out white versions of starchy foods like pasta and bread for their wholemeal alternatives – this aids digestion as well as heart health, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Supporting Your Heart Health
If you think you or a loved one would benefit from some extra help when it comes to looking after your heart and eating a healthy diet, Sova Healthcare is here to help. We offer support that goes further than just assistance around the home, our domiciliary services help build confidence through healthy diets and active lifestyles.
We understand that whether you’re managing a heart condition or just looking to embark on a healthier lifestyle, making those changes can often seem daunting. That’s why we’re here to support and make that transition as easy as possible. Speak to our team of advisors today to discuss your care needs.