Heart disease is a concerning issue for the health of Australians & other western countries, it can be a silent disease that doesn’t discriminate. In the 21st century it is the leading cause of early death (11% ABS), with the highest risks seen in men compared to women. The good news is that this condition is preventable by changing a few lifestyle habits and keeping up to date with a regular blood pressure check or blood test from your doctor or health practitioner.
This blog post is created by our chronic disease Nutritionist. It aims to offers research-based recommendations that help to prevent cardiovascular disease, with a particular focus on making healthy switches and following characteristics of a Meditterian diet that can improve LDL cholesterol levels and increase beneficial HDL cholesterol.
Heart disease risk factors (HD) can be linked to genetics, family history, lifestyle choices and some medications such as corticosteroids. Following a nutritious balanced diet and getting regular episodes of movement/physical activity every day are key mediators in reducing the risk of developing heart disease. But also controlling high levels of cell inflammation is important, which can be linked to chronic stress, regular smoking, high alcohol and high trans consumption (deep-fried foods) (1).
Unfortunately, it is too easy for us to fall into the Aussie & American western lifestyle from a young age. The foods we tend to overconsume are ultra-processed items high in added sugar, salt, saturated and trans fat & alcohol. Just think about your morning cafe muffin with a coffee, the ham and cheese toastie for lunch, and a quick takeaway for dinner with a glass of wine (1). Below are the key lifestyle factors that are worth addressing and cresting some healthier switches that last for years:
High Cholesterol Key Factors
✔️ High intake of butter-based foods and fatty meats.
✔️ Eating more than 6 added tsp of sugar per day.
✔️ Adding salt to your meals for more flavor.
✔️ Smoking 20 cigarettes every day.
✔️ Drinking more than 2 standard drinks per day.
Foods That Reduce Cholesterol
The good news is that you can improve your heart health with 4 weeks of making some changes to your daily habits and following a more Mediterranean-based lifestyle such as:
Exercising for 30 minutes with a sport or form of movement you actually enjoy.
Increase legumes, soy, and pulses to 400g + per week.
Increase viscous fibre to +20g per day such as oats, green veg & berries.
Add 67g of nuts/seeds to your day.
Add some plant-based sterols/stanols to 2g per day.
Eating 2 x servings of oily fish per week.
Switch processed high-fat meats to home-cooked plant-based proteins (+30g plant protein per day), such as homemade bean burgers, tofu & quinoa.
Become aware of your daily energy intake (2).
The hard part about making lifestyle changes is that it’s not a diet, a quick fix, or a short-term plan to complete takes time to build new habits. In Australia we are made to believe that we need to follow a restrictive diet, burn ourselves out with an 8-week gym program we hate and stop feeling so stressed out. Taking your time to add 2-3 changes in a week is much more sustainable and achievable in the next 12 months, compared to a quick fix that never lasts. So ditch the man shakes, pick up the wooden spoon and practice the art of cooking from home, or dust off your road bike and try using it commune to the train station to get some daily benefits going.
In Victoria we are lucky to have a free Healthy Lifestyle Program we can access from the government, it supports lifestyle changes with a health professional facilitator and builds community support.
Free Melbourne Diabetes Program
Our team of Dietitians and nutritionists runs a 12-month nutrition & lifestyle coaching program called Life!. If you score 12 or more on a diabetes risk test you may be able to join one of our government-funded places. Run in January, May, and October each year for our local community.