It is World Heart Day this Sunday September 26, and it’s a good time to take stock of your lifestyle and see if you are doing the best for your heart. Most dietary surveys show that we as a nation are still eating too much fat in our diets. Too many of us are carrying weight that our bodies were not designed to carry. All this is a recipe for disaster, and this is reflected in world statistics showing that people in Ireland are more likely to suffer from heart disease than in practically any other country on the globe.
Some of the factors leading to heart disease such as age, family history, and gender are out of our control. But we should look at the areas of our lifestyles we can change - like how much we eat, what we eat, whether we smoke, and how much exercise we do. By beginning to make small changes to the way we live we can vastly improve our chances of not developing heart disease. It is no surprise to learn that people in Italy, Spain, and Portugal eat about double the amount of fruit and vegetables we do and have less than a third the levels of heart disease.
Here are some aspects the heart healthy diet would consist of:
· At least one portion of oily fish per week. Oily fish contains omega-3 fats which help to prevent the blood from clotting - naturally helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
· Eat less fat of all types, especially saturated fats which can push up cholesterol levels and increase weight. Even small changes can make a big difference, for instance changing from butter to a low fat spread, could cut down on your fat intake by over 87g of fat per week; that is a whopping 788 kcals you won’t be eating every week.
· Eat more fruit and vegetables as they are packed full of antioxidants, and can help lower cholesterol and are a naturally low fat snack food.
Don’t forget exercise, which is the key to good heart health. A good start would be the 5 k fun run/walk from Athlone Regional Sports Centre for World Heart Day – it might kick off the exercise habit. It is better to check with your doctor first to make sure you are doing the right exercises for you.
The key to good heart health is in your hand – it’s up to you!
From the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE, Dublin Mid-Leinster.
For more information on diet and nutrition, please contact Maria at the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster on (044 ) 9353220 or email [email protected].