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Let’s have a heart to heart: Top 7 Food tips for a healthy heart

It wouldn’t be a shock too many to hear that we can’t live without our hearts. But why are our hearts so important?

Our heart is actually a muscle! Unlike other muscles in your body which may help you run, climb or lift, the heart has the important role of pumping blood. As the blood is pumped around the body, it carries oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed to keep our body working. It also removes any waste.

Heart disease

Heart disease is a very serious issue in today’s society. It is the group name for a number of different conditions that effect the heart including heart failure, heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease and more. Heart disease is actually the highest cause of death in Australia.

Could you be at risk?

There are a number of risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, some of these cannot be controlled. Some uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Gender – males are at higher risk

  • Age

  • Family history

  • Ethnicity

The good news is many of the risk factors are lifestyle related and therefore things we can change. Some of these include:

  • Smoking

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Uncontrolled stress, depression, mental health

  • Alcohol intake

  • Unhealthy diet

“Heart disease won’t affect me”

There seems to be a popular myth that heart disease is for old people. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore we are seeing more and more younger people specifically men die from heart attacks. Very recently we lost cricket legend Shane Warne to a heart attack at the premature age of 52. Shane was a sporting legend; most would never have suspected that there could be anything wrong with his heart. What we know is that the symptoms of heart disease can often be silent or mild and go unnoticed. It is important to act proactively by leading a healthy life-style and minimising the risk factors you can control.

Six Lifestyle changes for a healthy heart

  1. Quit smoking

  2. Partake in 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week – walking your dog, taking part in a group fitness class or taking up a new sport as a hobby all counts.

  3. Work on your mental health – you may like to mediate, indulge in self care or see a professional such as a counsellor or psychologist.

  4. Aim to get your weight within a healthy weight range

  5. Reduce alcohol intake.

  6. Get enough sleep!

Top 7 Food tips for a healthy heart

  1. Reduce red meat intake, aiming for a maximum of 3 serves of red meat per week.

  2. Include nuts as a regular snack. Nuts are a great source of healthy fat, plant sterols which lower cholesterol, fibre and antioxidants. Remember that nuts are still high in fat.

  3. Include fish high in omega-3 fatty acids including mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon. Aim to eat these twice a week.

  4. Choose wholegrains where possible.

  5. Go plant-based more, including beans in your diet

  6. Aim to get plenty of fruit and vegetables in your day, especially berries and leafy greens.

  7. If you have heart disease or high cholesterol, choose low fat dairy products. If not, full fat dairy products can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Foods to limit:

  • Salt choose salt reduced or no added salt products and add less in your cooking

  • Processed meats like cold meat and bacon these are high in salt and saturated fats

  • Processed foods such as chips, pastries, cakes, cookies etc.

One size never fits all when it comes to health. If you have heart disease or high cholesterol or are worried about your diet, see an Accredited Practising Dietitian (like us!) who can help with individualised support to help you.


Simone Cammarere, Accredited Practising Dietitian for OSCAR Care Group


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