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Eat to beat heart disease

Learn more about heart-healthy foods that can prevent and help to beat heart disease.

Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK – that's more than 160,000 each year. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and the most common cause of a heart attack. In 2019, it was the single biggest killer of men and women worldwide [1].  

If you are wondering whether you are at higher risk of heart disease and whether there are ways to reduce that risk, and keep your heart healthy, don’t worry – that’s where we step in.   

Not only do we offer an at-home test to check your risk of heart disease, but we have also put together four ways that you can change your diet to ‘eat to beat heart disease’.  

Ways to reduce your risk of heart disease through diet

1. Limit unhealthy fats 

Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are unhealthy. In some diet cultures, you are encouraged to steer clear of all fats, but healthy fats can be good sources of vitamins and minerals. 

Healthy fats include: 

  • Avocadoes 
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Vegetable oils 

However, unhealthy fats (also known as saturated fats) should be avoided or eaten in small amounts, as they can harm your health.  

Unhealthy fats include

  • Red meat 
  • Cheese 
  • Ice cream 

Large amounts of these foods can lead to an increase in cholesterol (a fatty substance found in your blood), increasing your risk of heart disease. 

Limiting unhealthy fats can reduce your cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of obesity, and lower your blood pressure – all of which can help decrease your overall risk of heart disease. 

2. Try more plant-based meals 

In more recent years, there has been a rise in vegan and plant-based diets. Documentaries (such as Game Changers) and movements (like Veganuary) mean people are becoming more aware of the effects that meat can have on the body.  

According to the vegan society, in the UK alone, the number of vegans has increased by 445,428 people (40%) in 2020 – 2021 [1]. And veganism and plant-based diets aren’t just becoming popular because of ethics - it is also because of the health benefits that may come alongside cutting out meat. 

Although there is evidence for both sides, something that most medical professionals agree on, is that red meat should be eaten in moderation, and if possible, replaced with plant-based foods [2]. 

Substantial evidence suggests that high consumption of red meat (especially processed red meat) is associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease [2].  

Therefore, eating less red meat, and trying more plant-based meals is proven to help reduce the risk of heart diseases. 

3. Increase fibre intake 

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that helps to keep the body’s digestive system healthy and helps to reduce the risk of certain health conditions [3]. 

Eating fibre has many benefits including decreasing the risk of: 

  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke 
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Bowel cancer 

As well as decreasing the risk of these health conditions, increasing the amount of fibre in your diet is also known to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol [4].  

Many foods are high in fibre, which you can add to your diet.  

Foods that are high in fibre include: 

  • Breakfast cereals 
  • Potatoes 
  • Pulses (beans, lentils, and chickpeas) 
  • Wholemeal bread 
  • Wholewheat pasta 
  • Brown rice 

Eating more fibre can also have the added benefit of making you feel fuller for longer - meaning you are less likely to snack on other foods that may be high in saturated fat, overall lowering your risk of heart disease.  

4. Reduce salt intake 

In almost every recipe, in every cookbook, you will find salt. It’s used in everything from bread to cakes. Most of us may even add salt to an already salted meal. And, in moderation, that’s okay. However, the problem arises when there is too much salt in your diet.  

Research shows that high levels of salt levels can increase your risk of high blood pressure [5], which in turn, can increase your risk of heart disease. 

Therefore, to reduce your risk of high blood pressure (and heart disease), WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that you reduce your salt levels to less than 5g a day

Conclusion 

By implementing these four small changes in your diet, you can help to decrease your risk of heart disease and keep your heart (and other vital organs) healthy. 

However, if you want to check to see if you are at higher risk of heart disease, you could try our Heart Disease Risk Blood Test, which looks at the main risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol. 


References 

  1. Bhf.org.uk. 2022. Facts and figures. [online] Available at: <https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/news-from-the-bhf/contact-the-press-office/facts-and-figures#:~:text=Coronary%20heart%20disease%20(CHD%3B%20also,and%20women%20worldwide%20in%202019.> [Accessed 26 January 2022]. 
  2. Truly Experiences Blog. 2022. Veganism Statistics 2022 – How Many Vegans Are There in the UK?. [online] Available at: <https://www.trulyexperiences.com/blog/veganism-uk-statistics/> [Accessed 12 January 2022].  
  3. Bmj.com. 2022. Replacing red meat with plant foods may reduce the risk of heart disease | BMJ. [online] Available at: <https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/replacing-red-meat-with-plant-foods-may-reduce-the-risk-of-heart-disease/> [Accessed 12 January 2022].  
  4. Nutrition.org.uk. 2022. Fibre - British Nutrition Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-sustainable-diets/starchy-foods-sugar-and-fibre/fibre/> [Accessed 12 January 2022].  
  5. Erkkilä, A. and Lichtenstein, A., 2006. Fiber and Cardiovascular Disease Risk. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 21(1), pp.3-8.  
  6. Grillo, Salvi, Coruzzi, Salvi and Parati, 2019. Sodium Intake and Hypertension. Nutrients, 11(9), p.1970.