Healthy eating to reduce your risk of heart disease
Following on from last week’s blog on heart disease, let’s talk about one of the key risk factors you can control to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Making these simple changes can also help you reduce your risk of related health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Eating a healthy balanced diet is important to keep your whole body working well. Healthy eating can also help control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This means in the long term it can help to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Try not to skip meals, especially breakfast, as this can cause your mood to worsen and make you feel irritable, tired and hungry. Start the day with breakfast, people who eat breakfast regularly are more likely to stay a healthy weight than people who don’t.
Get your daily intake of fruit and veg
Eating a wide variety of fruit and veg will ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need to keep healthy. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
A portion is about a handful, or:
· 80g of fresh fruit or vegetables
· 30g of dried fruit or vegetables
· A small glass (150ml) of fruit juice (limit this to 1 per day maximum)
Your fruit and veg can be:
· Tinned (in juice or water)
· Juiced - remember juice only counts as one portion a day.
We need fat
You need some fat in your diet, but choosing the right type of fat is important for your heart health. Remember that all types of fat are high in calories so you should only eat them in small amounts.
Try to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fats. These fats can increase the level of cholesterol in your blood. They are found in foods like butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil and full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, cream and hard cheese. Go for lower fat dairy products such as low-fat milk and cheese.
Unsaturated fats are a healthier choice and are in foods like nuts and seeds, rapeseed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, corn and soya oils and spreads made from them.
You should eat no more than 6g of salt a day
Six grams of salt is the equivalent of about one teaspoon. Try to use less salt in your cooking and when eating your food. Check the labels on snacks and ready meals and choose ones that are lower in salt and eat less processed food that has a lot of salt in it. This includes some ready meals, pizza, ketchup, sauces, sausages, bacon and some types of bread and some breakfast cereals.
We need about 6–8 drinks a day to maintain good levels of hydration
All non-alcoholic drinks count, but a glass of water, low fat milk and fruit juice are the healthiest. Coffee, tea, colas and some energy drinks contain caffeine which some people use to boost their energy levels. Make sure these are not your only drinks, as a lot of caffeine may increase your blood pressure and cause sleep problems.
We need protein in our diet to keep our skin, muscles and the rest of our body healthy.
Oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, kippers and salmon are good sources of protein and omega-3 fats. Aim for a couple of portions of fish a week and make one oily fish.
Aim to include a portion of protein at every meal. Foods high in protein are:
· Lean meat
· Fish, including oily fish
· Low fat milk
What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease begins when your coronary arteries get narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls. These arteries supply your heart muscle with blood.
Over time, your coronary arteries may become so narrow that they can’t deliver enough blood to your heart. This can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest tightness or discomfort (angina).
If a piece of the fatty material in your arteries breaks away then a blood clot will form. A heart attack happens when a blood clot blocks one of your coronary arteries, cutting off the blood supply to your heart muscle.
What increases your risk of heart disease?
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease.
Some risk factors you can’t control. These include:
· your ethnic background
· a history of heart disease in your family
· your age
· your gender
Talk to your GP if you are worried about any of these. They can help you identify the changes you need to make and where to start.
Some risk factors you can control, such as:
· not eating a healthy diet
· being overweight or obese
· high blood pressure
· high blood cholesterol
· not being physically active
· drinking too much alcohol
What is coeliac disease?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, spelt and barley. Those with coeliac disease have an autoimmune reaction to gluten. This affects about 1% of the population. The only treatment is to exclude gluten entirely from their diet. If a person with coeliac disease eats food containing gluten (even a tiny quantity), it damages the lining of their gut leading to symptoms (diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, cramping) and medical complications (malabsorption, osteoporosis, anaemia).
The EU law stipulates that 14 specific food allergens are declared on prepacked and non-packed foods. Gluten is one of these allergens. If a food on the menu contains gluten, the exact cereal containing the gluten must also be identified and specified on the menu.
Why follow a gluten free diet?
Those with a diagnosis of coeliac disease must follow a gluten free diet as it is the only treatment available. This diet aims to exclude all dietary sources of gluten and ensure gluten containing foods are substituted with an alternative of similar nutrient quality.
Where is gluten found in food?
As we mentioned, gluten is found in wheat, rye, oats, spelt and barley and any foods made with these cereals. Other sources of gluten to avoid when reading labels of processed foods include; starch or modified starch (check source-allowed if not made from wheat), cereal filler, wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, malt, malt flavouring, malt extract. The Coeliac Society of Ireland provides a comprehensive directory to gluten free foods yearly.
The best way to ensure ingredients are gluten free is by reading the label. Allergens are highlighted and written in bold in the ingredient list. In the case of gluten, the cereal containing the gluten must be specified on the label.
The crossed grain symbol is nationally and internationally recognised by those who need to follow a gluten-free diet.
What about FODMAPS?
Carbohydrates include: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and sugary foods. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are sensitive to certain carbohydrates in food called FODMAPS which are poorly digested and lead to symptoms in certain people such as wind and bloating. Irritable bowel syndrome affects 10-15% of the population. The letters in the word FODMAP each represent a name of each fermentable carbohydrate. The name may not be familiar to you but it refers to the chemical name given to a group of specific carbohydrates.
Oligosaccharides (fructans and galactans) are a type of fermentable carbohydrate/type of fibre which are found in wheat, onions, garlic, beans and certain fruit and vegetables.
Those who have IBS who have not found relief in following a healthy eating diet, high in fibre and fluid and wish to follow a low FODMAP diet are advised to do so under guidance from a registered dietitian before making unnecessary dietary restrictions.