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Healthy Heart


Oats for the heart

HOW TO KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY

Keeping your heart healthy is vital to enable you to live your life to the full. This means keeping arteries clear mainly by managing cholesterol levels. Some cholesterol (LDL) blocks arteries - a bit like limescale in a pipe. This in turn may block off blood supply to the heart or indeed all round the body. This could lead to a coronary heart attack or even a stroke.

Strokes are most common in people over the age of 55 and in men more than women, but can happen to anyone. Having a close relative who has had a stroke can also increase the risk. Although you can’t change your age, sex or genes, an estimated 40% of strokes could be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes such as these:

Stop smoking – it damages your arteries and raises blood pressure. Maintain a healthy weight - obesity increases blood pressure. Drink only in moderation - heavy or binge drinking increases your risk.

Take regular exercise - this will help to control your weight, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and boost good (HDL) cholesterol-this cholesterol takes fat from the arteries back to the liver to process.

Manage stress - it raises blood pressure, so try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. Eat more fruit and vegetables - studies have shown that eating 5 portions per day can lower the risk of a heart attack by 26%.

Cut down on salt - too much will increase blood pressure.

Monitor your fat intake - fat is high in calories so can lead to weight gain. Saturated fat (from animal products) is bad for cholesterol levels but moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (from fish, nuts and seeds) can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Up your level of plant sterols - these are compounds found in some milk, yogurt and low fat spreads. Research shows that taking 1.5 - 3g of sterols per day can reduce total cholesterol levels by 8-17%.

Eat to cut your stroke risk - Try these tasty ideas to include heart healthy foods in your daily diet.

Breakfast ideas - Have a bowl of porridge with a sliced banana and 1tbsp of pecan nuts. Eat a slice of wholemeal toast topped with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. Try a sliced peach with 3 tbsp of soya yogurt and a drizzle of honey.

Lunch Ideas - Make a salmon and salad wrap with salad tomatoes. Mix a banana with low- fat cream cheese for an open wholemeal sandwich. Top 4 oatcakes with low-fat cottage cheese and chopped pecans. For Pudding, make a mixed fruit salad including a red grapefruit.

Snack ideas - Chop some vegetables such as red peppers, carrot and broccoli and dip them into 2tbsp of smooth tofu. Drink a cup of green tea with a sweet oat biscuit.

Dinner Ideas - Top a salmon steak with wholegrain mustard and grill. Serve on a bed of stir-fried red and green peppers, red onion, sliced garlic and asparagus with steamed new potatoes. Bake a red pepper or beefsteak tomato stuffed with spinach and cooked rice. Serve with a baby leaf salad. Stir-fry tofu cubes with Chinese vegetables and serve with a bowl of wholemeal noodles.

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