Changing your diet is one of the best ways to show your heart some love – and live longer.
Almost 200,000 people a year are dying from heart attacks or strokes, yet 80per cent of these deaths could be prevented in the under 75s.
Every year, more than 180,000 Brits have a heart attack – that is one person every three minutes – while 100,000 suffer a stroke.
Dr Laura Corr, a cardiologist with 25 years of experience, recommends lowering your risk with a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, fish, nuts and olive oils.
Here, she gives her top tips for a heart-healthy diet.
Heavy on the veg
Research suggests ten servings of fruit and vegetables a day lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease by almost a third.
Dr Corr recommends starting with the UK recommendation of five and then building your diet up from there.
“Fruit and vegetables provide fibre, vitamins and antioxidants that may benefit heart health directly,” she says.
“Prioritise vegetables over fruit, as fruit is bred to be very sweet these days.”
Balance meat with fish
Too much red meat is bad for the heart and can even lead to blood clotting, whereas oily fish helps clear arteries.
“My rule of thumb is to have meat only a couple of times a week and to match this with two to three servings of fish or shellfish, including some oily fish, such as sardines, salmon, mackerel or tuna,” says Dr Corr.
“Oily fish provides the healthy omega-3 fats that help blood flow through arteries better.”
Go for good oils
Replacing saturated fat – such as butter, cheese, pastries and red meat – with unsaturated fats like vegetable oils or high-fibre carbohydrates is the best way to improve your heart health.
“The two oils that I recommend more any other are olive oil and rapeseed oil,” says Dr Corr. “Try to consume about two tablespoons of it a day. Drizzle it on food, use in dressings, or for stir fries or roasting.”
Cut back on salt
Most adults in the UK consume approximately 8.1g of salt per day, but we should be aiming for closer to 6mg.
“Cutting intake is really important for most of us to prevent or minimise rises in blood pressure as we get older,” says Dr Corr.
“Not many people realise that the more often you eat salt, the less your tongue can taste it.
“Cooking your food from scratch is the best way to keep your intake down.”
Stick with Eggs and milk
A study of 130,000 people found those who ate two or more daily servings of milk or yogurt – including full-fat versions – had a 22per cent lower risk of heart disease, 34 per cent lower risk of stroke, and 23 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease.
“Eating up to two eggs a day is fine,” Dr Corr says.
“Dairy products, rich in calcium and potassium, seem good for hearts in moderation.”