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World Heart Day is celebrated on September 29th and there is no better time to look at how you can improve your eating habits and lead a more heart-healthy life. 

On average, around 17.9 million lives are lost every year due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), making it the leading cause of death, globally. Whilst 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’s important to keep it strong and healthy. By adopting simple lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a healthier diet and cutting out alcohol and tobacco, we can take the right steps towards ensuring a healthier heart.  

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. 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 (LDL) 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 cookies, sugary cereals, candy, and soft drinks, as these types of foods increase the risk of inflammation and raise blood sugar levels. Instead, replace with fibre-rich foods to help stabilise blood sugar levels.  

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: Here is a list of foods which can be consumed to maximise your heart health:  

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 (LDL) cholesterol and systolic blood pressure.  

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 (HDL) 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. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day to help encourage the heart’s arteries to dilate seamlessly.  

SUPPLEMENTS: Here is a list of key supplements to help heart health:  

Omega 3: Omega 3 plays a very important role in protecting your heart from the bad cholesterol (LDL) and Triglyceride. 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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