Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do for a healthy heart. Getting regular exercise will help to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and reduce the narrowing of your arteries. The Irish Heart Foundation recommends that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week – but more is better!
Alongside exercise, there are lots of foods that we can add or limit when it comes to looking after our hearts.
Fruit and vegetables
Aim to get your 5-a-day from a variety of vegetables and fruits. Eat lots of different colours to get the best benefit. From leafy greens to citrus from salads to soups, make sure you get fruit and/or vegetables to make up at least 1/3 of your plate at every meal.
The fibre and nutrients in wholegrain foods make them a perfect partner when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. Carbs are a great source of fuel for exercise and training, and choosing wholegrain bread, rice and pasta is an easy way to help look after your heart.
Oil-rich fish like salmon and mackerel are excellent sources of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Eating 250mg of EPA and DHA per day contributes to the normal function of your heart. Fish are also a good source of B vitamins including thiamin which is also needed for normal heart function. Aim to have oil-rich fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines twice a week.
Meats like sausages, bacon and black and white pudding are high in salt and fat and are best kept as an occasional treat. Too much salt can have an impact on blood pressure and is linked with an increased risk of stroke. Choose lower fat options like fish or turkey and remember to limit the amount of salt you add when you are cooking.
Nuts are an ideal food to add into a healthy diet. They are a great source of protein but they are also one of natures’ vitamin and mineral supplements. Almonds are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, copper and zinc. And nuts are linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. Add a handful a day of unsalted almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts or cashews.
Sarah Keogh in association with John West
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.