Healthy heart

Food provides nutrients to help the body perform properly. It is important to enjoy a well-balanced, healthy diet by enjoying a variety of foods to provide all the nutrients our bodies need.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is a widely used term which encompasses a variety of conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke, diseases of the heart and blood vessels and heart failure.

What is coronary heart disease?

The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. These arteries can become narrower due to a gradual build up of fatty deposits, this process is known as atherosclerosis. Over time the arteries can become so narrow that not enough blood gets to the heart muscle. The discomfort or pain caused by this narrowing is called angina. If the narrowed artery becomes blocked by a blood clot, this causes a heart attack.

Factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease

  • Unhealthy diet high in salt and fat, particularly saturated fat
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes

How to reduce your risk of developing heart disease

Eat a healthy diet that is low in fat, especially saturated fat, low in salt and high in a variety of fruit and vegetables and fibre. Reducing your fat intake can help lower your blood cholesterol and keep your blood pressure down.

Stop smoking to significantly reduce your risk of getting heart disease.

Exercise regularly – not being physically active is the most common risk factor for heart disease. Becoming more active improves your physical and mental health as well as helping to protect your heart by controlling weight, improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. Consult your GP before you start exercising.

Drink in moderation - regular moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke mainly in men aged over 40 years and in post-menopausal women, when the risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke significantly increase. Binge drinking, significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.

Control diabetes - people with diabetes have a higher chance of developing heart disease and high blood pressure. The risk of problems will be greatly reduced by controlling blood glucose and blood pressure, eating healthily and taking regular physical exercise.

Love life and eat well for a healthy heart

Silvana Franco is joined in the kitchen by Rahim who lives with high blood pressure and raised cholesterol. Find out about ways to eat well for a healthy heart, and learn how to cook a heart-friendly cheesy pasta dish.

Useful links:

British Heart Foundation:
http://www.bhf.org.uk (this link opens a new window)

National Heart Forum:
http://www.heartforum.org.uk (this link opens a new window)

British Nutrition Foundation:
http://www.nutrition.org.uk (this link opens a new window)

BBC health:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health (this link opens a new window)