How to live longer: Seven simple steps to keep your heart healthy and boost longevity

Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk

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Nearly 18 million lives are lost on average every year due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), making it the leading cause of death globally. However, by adopting simple lifestyle changes you can take the right steps towards a healthier heart.

With World Heart Day fast approaching on the 29th September, now is the time to look at how you can improve your eating habits and lead a more heart-healthy life to increase longevity.

While the exact cause of CVD is unclear, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing CVD, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

The heart is a hard-working muscle, and like every other muscle in our bodies, it is important to keep it strong and healthy. Kris Agustin, Fitness Manager at Fitness First, shares seven simple steps to help keep your heart healthy:

Portion control: To lead a heart healthy lifestyle, it is important to take into consideration portion control. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

As well as this, use small plates or bowls to help regulate your portions and always avoid processed or sugary foods, as these foods can result in high cholesterol.

Minimise saturated fats: By reducing your intake of saturated fats, you can reduce your cholesterol levels and cut your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Saturated fats typically come from animal fats such as red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products.

Minimise simple carbohydrates: Stay away from simple carbs like sugary cereals, sweets and chocolate as these types of foods increase the risk of inflammation and raise blood sugarlevels.

Instead, replace it with fibre-rich foods to help stabilise blood sugar levels. Agustin spoke to Fitness First and explained what else one can do to maximise heart health.

Reduce sodium intake: Through reducing sodium intake in your meals, you can help prevent the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.

Try making home-made meals such as soups and stews, as this can significantly decrease your salt intake.

Consume heart friendly foods: Some foods that will keep your heart fit and healthy include:

• Leafy green vegetables: high in dietary nitrates, green vegetables reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness.

• Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) such as fish, plant oils, avocados, nuts, and seeds, help lower cholesterol.

• Seeds such as chia seeds and flax seeds are rife with fibre and omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation and increase rates of good cholesterol.

Exercise regularly: Regular exercise is a key factor towards preventing heart disease as it helps lower blood pressure, increases healthier cholesterol levels, and ensures better blood sugar regulation. Agustin recommends exercising at least 30 minutes a day to help encourage the heart’s arteries to dilate seamlessly.

Supplements: The following are useful supplements that can be taken to improve heart health:

• Omega 3: Omega 3 plays a very important role in protecting your heart from the “bad” cholesterol. It can also help to support an irregular heartbeat and slow the build-up of fat plaque in the arteries.

• Vitamin D: Not only does Vitamin D help maintain bone density and boost brain function but it also decreases blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and improves muscle function.

• Magnesium: Essential for normal heart rhythm, magnesium also helps maintain electrolytes, such as potassium and calcium which our body needs to transport nerve messages and help with the contractions of the heart.

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