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Let's Talk About Heart Health

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

Blog 1 Healthful High Performance 24/06/22




How to help your heart, and protect it over the long term…


Heart disease is, in many cases, an avoidable lifestyle disease, and with the right focus, you can avoid it too. Some significant risk factors (outside of smoking and excessive drinking) include being diabetic, having high cholesterol and being overweight.

Today I'm sharing which dietary changes you can start to make today to protect your health and that of your loved ones. There’s fantastic news in this regard because several huge studies point to diet and lifestyle change being IT when it comes to prevention.

The INTERHEART study, published in the Lancet in 2004, followed 30,000 people in 52 countries. Researchers found that lifestyle changes could prevent at least 90 per cent of all heart disease.

This was another big one: the EPIC study in 2009 looked at how 23,000 people adhered to 4 simple behaviours: not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Sticking to these four behaviours alone seemed to prevent 93% of cases of diabetes, 81% of cases of heart attacks, 50% of cases of strokes, and 36% of cases of all cancers.

A SIMPLE STRATEGY FOR GOOD HEALTH





Of course, everyone is an individual, and there is no official ‘single diet’ that all humans should eat. But if there were, this would be it because it handles the problem's essence – overweight and a highly inflammatory internal environment.

Before I dive in with some of the answers, let's talk about fat because, if you’ve heard one thing about staving off a heart attack, it’s ‘cut back on fat’ (especially the saturated kind).

The success of some low-fat dietary models in weight loss is thought to be likely due to the simultaneous reduction of sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Whilst dietary fat actually turns off fat production in your liver. Unlike carbohydrates and protein, dietary fat does not trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin.

One type of fat everyone should avoid is trans fats, a kind of Frankenstein fat added to food to improve the shelf life and mouthfeel of products. One study found that the risk of coronary heart disease doubled with each 2 per cent increase in calories from trans fats (Iqbal, 2014). Another researcher even concluded: “On a per calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of CHD more than any other micronutrient.” (Mozaffarian et al., 2006).


THE REAL VILLAINS…






The real villains in the piece are refined grains and sugar. During processing, refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ, two parts of the grain kernel that contain a wealth of nutrients. The final product is starch, with next to no nutritional value, providing little more than carbohydrates and calories. Refined carbohydrates can be found in various foods, including white bread, pasta and rice, muffins, cakes, cookies, crackers, and bagels. Unfortunately, these foods make up a pretty good chunk of the modern Western diet and may be linked to a higher risk of heart disease.




One study from China found that a higher carbohydrate intake, mainly from refined grains, was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease among 117,366 adults (Yu et al., 2013).

Sugar is one of the main culprits of heart disease. Added sugars from foods like sweets, desserts, juice and soft drinks can spike blood sugar levels, damaging the blood vessels, overloading the liver and increasing the risk of heart disease.

Interestingly, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that participants who drank the highest amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 20 per cent higher relative risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who consumed the lowest amount (de Koning et al., 2012).


WHAT THIS MEANS IS …

A lower carbohydrate diet is recommended to balance blood sugar and therefore reduce insulin and blood glucose levels. Elevated insulin is a major risk factor for heart disease and promotes inflammation. You’re also likely to lose weight on a blood sugar-balancing diet, which will reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure.

1. PROTEIN

Eat a source of protein at every meal and snack. This can include fish/ seafood, poultry, meat, nuts, seeds, tofu, or eggs. Given you probably eat enough meat already and many people don’t eat nearly enough vegetable protein, see if you can bring in more fish and more vegetable sources of protein over the week. Ideally, eat two to three vegetable-based protein meals weekly. Replace animal-based protein meals with lentils, legumes, tofu, quinoa or nuts and seeds, for example. If you’re a fish eater, get in wild-caught fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, twice a week.

2. FRUIT & VEG

Get plenty of fruit and veg but focus specifically on eating veg that grows above the ground and fruit that can be grown in the country you live in. These foods naturally contain either less natural sugar or lower amounts of carbohydrates, which impact hormones. At each meal, have this cover at least half of your plate. The aim is seven a day and ideally five from veg. Over a week, aim to eat all different colours - span the rainbow to enjoy a diverse intake of nutrients. Enjoy berries, citrus fruit, peppers and leafy greens.

3. FIBRE

Fibre is a great addition, the soluble kind you’ll find in oats, lentils, split peas, flaxseed, citrus fruits and apples. All of those are heart-healthy choices. From the insoluble category, eat nuts and whole grains.

4. FAT

Some fats are healthy, and let’s not forget that fat is essential for life. Get your fat from avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds.

5. CARBS

Think carefully about the quality (what kind) and the quantity (how much) of starchy carbs like bread, pasta, cereals, potato, and rice. Focus on wholemeal over white, sweet potato over regular white potato, basmati or brown rice over long grain. You can also try throwing in a few ‘faux carbs’ like cauliflower or broccoli rice, courgetti (courgette spiralised into noodle shapes), butternut squash waffles, and so on.

6. PROCESSED MEAT

In recent years, numerous studies have connected processed meats, like hot dogs, salami and tinned beef, to a range of adverse effects on health. Not surprisingly, processed meats can also negatively affect heart health, so best to give them a wide berth.

7. VEGETABLE OILS

Vegetable oils can be very damaging to heart health. Recent studies show that oils like rapeseed are not helpful (even though the supermarkets are brimming with these options). In fact, the linoleic acid they contain has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

8. SUGAR

Remove as much sugar as possible from your diet, as this is the real villain in the tale. That means saving sugary treats for high days and holidays and, most of the time, ditching breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, pastries, and so on and checking the label of jarred sauces, where sugar often lurks.

9. FIZZY POP

Avoid fizzy soft drinks. Eliminating soft drinks is one of the best things everyone can do for their heart. Besides being laden with controversial chemicals and unhealthy ingredients, soft drinks are also brimming with added sugars.

10. SALT

Many people are aware that too much salt raises blood pressure, a precursor to hypertension and a major risk to heart health. What they may not be aware of is that most salt in the modern diet comes from pre-packaged and processed foods...this includes plant-based burgers, curry sauces, frozen fish etc...

It is time to check labels and keep salt intake to a minimum.

* and yes, the print is tiny, so be prepared to use your mobile, and extend a snap so that none of the nasties are hidden from you.


Do you notice a trend in my diet tips?





REAL FOOD needs to be the focus. Feel the benefits of decreasing the processed stuff that most people kid themselves is OK to eat. Honestly, your body doesn't know what’s happening when you shovel heavily processed or chemically altered foods.

Also, eating this way (sometimes referred to as a low GL (glycaemic load) diet) will give your body a steady supply of energy throughout the day rather than a high-octane rollercoaster of energy spikes and troughs. You’ll get the double win of protecting your heart health whilst increasing your performance, concentration and agility during the working day.



As a final note, putting the ‘food work’ into your life alongside the commitment to regularly de-stress, move your body and prioritise sleep is not always easy to do on your own. It can be helpful to have someone – like me – to guide, support and cheer you along the way.

If you want to hear more about how I help my clients, you can visit feelingamazingagain.com to book your complimentary zoom consultation.

I’d love to hear from you!





Because Life Should Feel Amazing!





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