Men’s Health Week – balanced diet is best for your heart

By Sarah Noone Heart News   |   19th Jun 2020

As Men’s Health Week 2020 comes to a close on Sunday ( June 21 ), our expert dietitian Sarah Noone, writes about how restoring the balance in our diets is essential for a healthy heart

A healthy balanced diet is essential to keep our cholesterol levels and blood pressure in check, and our hearts healthy.  Here are my top tips to help you do just that.

Eat the Mediterranean Way

The Mediterranean diet, recommended for heart health, is an entire dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oils, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and oily fish. It also contains moderate amounts of dairy with low amounts of red and processed meats and sweet foods. The Mediterranean diet is high in good fats (mostly monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower cholesterol levels) which come from nuts, seeds and olive oils. You can find out more about this heart-healthy diet here.

Eat Fish Twice a Week

Fish, especially oily fish is a great source of omega 3, which helps to keep your heart healthy. Adults should aim to eat at least two portions of fish per week, including at least one portion of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel or sardines.

Eat 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Fruit, vegetables and salad add vitamins, minerals and fibre to your meals, and help to keep your body and heart-healthy. So, what does a portion of fruit or vegetables actually look like? An apple, banana, pear or other similar sized fruit counts as one portion. Or you could have a dessert bowl of salad or three tablespoons of vegetables. But remember every little counts, whether its fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced fruit and vegetables. Check out our piece here on easy ways to increase your fruit and veg uptake

Eat more fibre

Fibre is found in carbohydrates such as wholemeal flour, bread, oats and in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils. Fibre is extremely important. It not only helps keep our digestive systems and bowels in good working order but an increased amount of soluble fibre found in oats, some fruit and vegetables can also help lower your cholesterol and help keep your heart healthy. Check out our top tips on how to up your fibre intake here

The Mediterranean diet is high in good fats; mostly monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower cholesterol levels.

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Swap for the Good Fat

The Mediterranean diet is based on long-term research around the best diet for heart health and advocates using unsaturated fats found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts, seeds and avocados rather than saturated and trans fats e.g. those found in processed foods, butter, cheese, cream, mayonnaise, crisps, and pastries. Limiting red (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (sausages, bacon, burgers) is also recommended.

Eat less salt and sugar

Salt in very small amounts is vital for the body to function properly, but the reality is the majority of us in Ireland are eating too much. High dietary salt intake can lead to high blood pressure and the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications. Around 70 per cent of the salt we eat is already in foods so make sure to avoid or eat fewer foods containing more than 1.5g salt or 0.6g sodium per 100g.

The Irish Heart Foundation food shopping card is a useful tool to tell you whether a product is high or low in salt. Instead of adding salt to foods, either in cooking or at the table, use herbs such a black pepper, paprika or flavourings such as balsamic vinegar, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Too much sugar can lead to high triglycerides, a bad type of fat in our blood vessels, which is why you should reduce concentrated forms of sugar such as fruit juice, sugary drinks, biscuits, and cake. If you wish to have these treats, try to have them occasionally.

Go easy on alcohol

When it comes to alcohol, remember less is more when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. If you do drink, it is recommended that men have no more than 17 standard drinks a week and at least three alcohol-free days a week to allow the liver to recover and repair. One standard drink is the equivalent of a small glass (100ml) of wine, 1/2 a pint of beer, or a pub measure of spirits. As well as being high in calories, alcohol can also make us eat more because, when we drink, our liver is busy dealing with the alcohol, so it stops releasing glucose (energy) into the blood making us feel hungrier. Check out askaboutalcohol.ie for more information and tips.

And finally remember stopping smoking (if you smoke), being physically active and de-stressing are also all very important to keep your heart healthy.

" High dietary salt intake can lead to high blood pressure and the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications,"

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Men’s Health Week 2020 runs from Monday 15th to Sunday to Sunday 21st June

Almost 5,000 men died from heart disease or stroke last year showing the devastating impact cardiovascular disease is having on male health in Ireland.

Men’s Health Week 2020, an annual event run by the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland with support from more than 90 partner organisations and the HSE, which aims to raise awareness of preventable health problems, support men and boys to live healthier lives, and encourage them to seek help or treatment early.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.

Please support our work

If you found this article helpful and would like to donate to the Irish Heart Foundation please see here.

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cholesterol diet dietitian heart disease high blood pressure mediterranean diet men's health week 2020 men's heath nutrition stroke

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