The risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases with age. This includes all the diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke. Statistics from the British Heart Foundation show people aged 65–75 are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as those who are 10 years younger, while people over 75 years old are five times more likely to die than those 10 years younger.
But it’s not just our age that’s a factor. According to the BHF, more than 20 million UK adults are failing to meet the government guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, increasing their risk of heart disease. Physical activity can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by 35% and risk of death by 30%, but currently, women are 36% more likely to be considered physically inactive than men. Visit our Get Active section for inspiration on how to meet your weekly exercise targets, then read on for ways to adjust your diet for improved heart health.
Here are six nutrition fixes to help age-proof your heart:
1 Switch from saturates to monounsaturates and polyunsaturates Women should have no more than 70g total fat a day and men a maximum of 95g daily. It’s the saturates that are dangerous – found in full-fat dairy products, fatty meat and processed foods – as these increase cholesterol, particularly the LDL or ‘bad’ component, which increases heart disease risk. Substitute these for monounsaturates, found in olive oil, avocados, seeds and nuts; and polyunsaturates found in oil-rich fish and pure vegetable oils, which lower LDL cholesterol.
2 Fill up on fruit and veg
The antioxidants mop up harmful free radicals, thought to speed up the hardening of arteries.
3 Eat oil-rich fish, such as trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna, once a week
It’s rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce the stickiness of blood and make it less likely to clot, keep the heart beating regularly, protect the arteries around the heart from damage and lower triglycerides (another blood fat).
4 Love wholegrains
Eating more of these, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholegrain cereals, can lower the risk of heart disease by up to 28% and stroke by up to 36%. Foods rich in soluble fibre, such as oats, beans, peas, barley, apples and pears, also help lower cholesterol. Research shows 3g soluble fibre from oats each day can reduce LDL cholesterol.
5 Include soya
If part of a diet low in saturates, it can help lower both total and LDL cholesterol.
6 Cut salt
Too much is linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease.