Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach Charlotte Lau explains how to protect your heart’s health through healthy lifestyle choices

Heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death in the UK and worldwide. Encouragingly, however, the death rate from heart disease has reduced by more than three quarters since the 1960s. The British Heart Foundation estimates that more than half of UK adults will suffer from a heart or circulatory condition in their lifetime, which is a shocking statistic, so it is important to know how to best take care of your heart. There are a number of different issues that can impact the heart and circulatory system, including; cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke and unfortunately there are risk factors for heart disease that we can’t change, including genetics, age and sex (men have a higher risk). However, there are some things we can control to help minimise the risk including prioritising a healthy diet, not smoking, taking regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, managing stress levels, attending medical appointments and taking recommended medication. 

Learn to… be kind to your heart

A heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been seen to help with reducing or maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels along with the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is another risk factor for heart disease. A strong emphasis on eating a plant-based diet is beneficial to the heart. Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre and wholegrains, such as; oats, bulgar wheat, quinoa and brown or wild rice have also been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. It’s never too early to be kind to your heart.

Give it a go… prioritise heart healthy fats

There has been much conflicting advice over the years when it comes to healthy fats and it can make it really difficult to know what is best when it comes to looking after our hearts. Although all types of fat play a role in our body, it is best for heart health to consume more unsaturated fat, compared with saturated fat. This is because unsaturated fat can improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and support healthy blood vessels and blood pressure. So focus on including plant oils, like olive and rapeseed oil and choose avocados, nuts and seeds over fatty meats, pastries and fried foods. Don’t forget about oily fish which has a great source of Omega-3 fats. These are essential for normal functioning of the heart and regulating blood pressure, so try to consume two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily such as salmon, herring, kippers or mackerel.

Step away from… too much salt

A high intake of salt can increase blood pressure. Many foods we consume probably contain more salt than we realise, so it is wise to reduce our salt intake to 3g per day which, for many, would have a positive effect on blood pressure. The key message is that it is best for our heart to limit the amount of salt we eat by adding less to our food and being aware of foods that can be high in salt like crisps, salted nuts, salted crackers, soy sauce, stock cubes, processed meat and powdered soup. Being more aware and checking the salt content on the labels of readymade products is also a good habit to get into.

Charlotte runs Plume Nutrition, where she offers support and advice for weight management, controlling cravings, sleeplessness, stress and increasing energy levels. Find out more at plumenutrition.com

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