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5 foods that prevent heart disease

One tenth of men aged 50 have a heart age 10 years older, a new study suggests. Nutritionist Robert Hobson reveals what to eat to prevent heart disease

A new study by The Public Health England has found that one tenth of 50-year-old men have a ‘heart age 10 years older’. 1.2 million took the Heart Age Test, with results that the British Heart Foundation say are ‘extremely worrying’, considering it also suggested that 5.6 million people living in England have high blood pressure without knowing.

Heart disease is the main cause of death among men and second among women (after Alzheimer’s) in the UK, with 7,400 people predicted to die from it or a stroke in September alone. Heart health organisations raise awareness of heart disease every year in February, considering it is the top cause of death for women in the US. National Wear Red Day for example is a huge event that has taken place in America every first Friday in February for the past 15 years.

Drinking half a glass of wine a week can put a person at a greater risk of heart disease

The NHS says ‘most cases of premature death from heart disease are completely preventable’, by controlling lifestyle and diet habits. In February, it emerged that drinking half a pint of beer or half a glass of wine a week, is enough to put a person at a greater risk of heart disease. The research, undertaken by the University College London, tracked almost 4,000 people for 25 years, and found that alcohol can stiffen arteries.

This can be a confusing message, as Dr Darragh O’Neill, who led the study at UCL, acknowledges himself. Previous studies said have indicated that drinking could increase the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol in the bloodstream. In November last year, a study found that drinking beer was actually good for you. Researches at the Pennsylvania State University found that out of 80,000 adults a natural decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol in the body was slowed by a moderate intake of alcohol.

MORE: 7 best low alcohol beers you need to try

So, what DOES help?

With this aside, top nutritionist Robert Hobson shares what you can eat to improve your overall health, but specifically to prevent heart disease. ‘Heart disease’ is a broad term for any disease that involves the heart or vessels, including cardiovascular disease.

Oily fish

What to eat to protect against heart disease


Omega 3, found in fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel, is recommended by Rob for its abilities to reduce inflammation and thickness of blood, and increase good cholesterol high-density lipoprotein (HDL). A previous research review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that consumption of omega 3s EPA and DHA was associated with a 16 per cent lower risk of heart disease in people with high triglycerides, or fats, in the blood, and a 14 percent lower risk for patients with increased bad cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The study, funded by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA, reviewed 18 trials with 93,000 participants.


Those who eat wholegrains had a 19 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease in a study

What to eat to protect against heart disease
Switching from white to wholegrain bread is a good change

A high intake of fibre has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, such as a study by Harvard of over 40,000 males. They completed a detailed 131-item dietary questionnaire used to measure usual intake of total fibre, and the results showed a high intake was linked to a 40 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease during a six year follow up. Another study, published in the medical journal BMJ, found that those who eat a lot of whole grains, which are high in fibre, have a 19 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, 15 per cent lower risk of cancer, and 51 per cent lower risk of diabetes. This was by consuming 90g a day, by switching dietary things such as white bread to whole wheat bread.  Rob explains that fiber also can reduce the risk of diabetes and also aid weight loss, which are both risk factors for heart disease in itself. An easy way of adding fibre to your breakfast is to add a tablespoon of crushed flaxseeds, a fantastic fibre food. Healthista loves Linwoods Organic Milled Flaxseed £5.19


What to eat to protect against heart disease

Research, such as a 25-year study of 100,000 people in the US, has found wholegrains including oats, can keep the heart protected from disease. The Harvard study, published in medical journal JAMA, found that those who regularly ate 28g of wholegrain per day, the equivalent to a small bowl of porridge, had a nine per cent lower risk of heart death. The oats act like sponges to soak up fat in the system, busting cholesterol.  Rob names the bad cholesterol lowering soluble fibre as beta-glucan. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a heart-healthy label for foods that have high amounts of beta glucan, based on such evidence. Go for the jumbo organic oats variety to ensure minimum processing. Healthista loves Primrose Kitchen Organic Porridge Oats £3.99

MORE: 10 breakfast bowl recipes to fill you up fast

Olive oil

Olive oil is the king of oils

What to eat to protect against heart disease
Rob advises using extra virgin olive oil for all cooking

Rob describes extra virgin olive oil as ‘the king of oils’, and recommends using the healthy fat for all cooking purposes. Research has found that polyphenolic compounds in the oil can reduce inflammation, a key step in the heart disease process, as well as reduce bad LDL cholesterol by protect LDL particles from oxidative damage. One study by the Harvard Medical School, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that replacing five per cent of saturated fats, such as butter and cheese, in the diet with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and walnuts reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 per cent. The study followed dietary habits of nearly 130,000 people over almost 30 years. However, it didn’t observe lifestyle habits.  Look for high quality, extra-virgin cold-pressed and ideally organic olive oil if you can, to ensure minimum processing and maximum nutrients. Healthista loves  Biona Organic Extra Virgin OIle Oil £14.99 for one litre

Bright coloured fruit and vegetables

What to eat to protect against heart disease

We are advised to eat a colourful diet, full of various fruit and vegetables. Rob suggests the natural compounds in plant based foods are antioxidant, which are thought to protect against free radical damage and inflammation in the body, associated with heart disease. The evidence for this is in dispute, however The British Heart Foundation recommends eating a variety to help towards your 5-a-day, part of a healthy diet. Red coloured foods, such as tomatoes, berries, and pomegranate for example, are given their colour because they contain antioxidant lycopene, which may help the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol.

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