How does what I eat affect my heart?
The food that we eat can affect the way that blood flows through the heart and blood vessels. Over time, a diet high in saturated fat can cause a build up (a plaque) in the arteries that can both slow down the flow of blood and weaken the walls of the arteries.
Particles of this build up can break off and move to different parts of the arteries where they can form blood clots with other particles. If the build-up causes a blockage in an artery that supplies the heart, the part of the heart affected can die, causing a heart attack.
The right diet can help keep the arteries clear and reduce the risk of heart problems. If you are concerned about your heart health or have a heart condition, or if you want to know more about eating for a healthy heart so that you can encourage someone you know, read on for tips on how to eat your way to a healthier heart.
How much should I weigh?
While extra pounds will put unnecessary stress on your heart, when it comes to heart health, how much body fat you have is more important than how much you weigh. While it can be difficult to accurately calculate percentage body fat, a good gauge of body fat is your waist/hip ratio. The higher the ratio (for example, if your waist size is close to or bigger than your hips), the more fat you are carrying around your lower abdomen – the most dangerous place to store body fat.
Talk to your GP about your weight. If necessary, he can arrange for you to see a dietician who can discuss ways to reduce your overall body fat.
Ways to a healthier heart
As already mentioned, the change to heart healthy eating should be a long-term one, so there’s no point in starting a diet that you can’t imagine sticking to! Read on for some tips on how to make the change to heart healthy eating for good!
Enjoy your food!
Food is not just about calories and nutrients, it is something to be enjoyed and shared. If you are making changes to the way you eat, experiment with new tastes and new ways of cooking and encourage your family and friends to join in so that everyone can enjoy and benefit from heart healthy eating.
Eat a variety of food
There are no magic heart healthy foods – it is the combination and variety of foods that’s important. Eating a wide variety of foods helps to ensure that you will get all the energy and nutrients that you need. The healthy eating food pyramid Link is a great guide to the variety and types of foods that we need.
Heart disease takes many years to develop, and is a condition that people have to live with for the rest of their lives. For this reason, it is important that the food changes that you make are changes that you will be able to keep up in the long run. There is no point in starting a strict diet that leaves you craving for food and feeling unsatisfied as it’s not possible (or pleasant)
to keep it up. There should be room in a sensible eating plan for some treats. If you do have a treat, try having it after a meal. That way you are less likely to crave for more