Do you need to lose weight?
If you’re carrying excess pounds, a heart attack or diagnosis of unstable angina is a wake up call to get down to a healthy weight.
Losing weight doesn’t mean living on boring meals and missing out on what you love, but making manageable changes.
You won’t just lose weight – you’ll look and feel better, too.
Why switch to a Mediterranean diet? 1
There’s evidence that a Mediterranean diet is the most heart-healthy way of eating. This type of diet is low in saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy), which contributes to unhealthy cholesterol, and high in healthy omega-3 fats and fibre-rich, vitamin-dense foods that lower cholesterol levels, fight inflammation and help you lose weight.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day); starchy foods such as whole grain pasta, oats and potatoes; protein from lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy; snacking on nuts and seeds; and having oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, at least twice a week.
Simple tweaks to favourite dishes can do the trick – for instance, make spaghetti Bolognese with lean mince and veg, add beans and veg to soups and casseroles, and add seeds and chopped fruit to cereal.
Cook your own fresh meals
It’s important to base your meals around fresh, whole foods and to cook from scratch. The reason? It’s the best way to avoid excess salt, a big no-no for heart health. Too much salt contributes to high blood pressure, and it’s very easy to consume far more than the recommended maximum of 6g of salt a day. Low sodium salt has high amounts of potassium. Some medications given after a heart attack, such as ACE inhibitors, can also increase potassium so it is worth checking with your doctor or rehabilitation team whether they are appropriate.
Most of the salt we eat is already in the foods we eat, rather than added at the table. Cut right back on processed foods, such as ready meals, cereals, cheese, crisps, shop-bought soups and bread.
Enjoy treats in moderation
You don’t have to shun dessert and veto that glass of wine completely – but moderation is key. Keep it to a small glass of wine a few times a week, as too much alcohol can encourage weight gain and raise blood pressure. Men and women should limit alchol intake to a maximum of 14 units over a week*. If you must have a piece of cake or chocolate bar, try to keep treats to once a week – on a Saturday, for example. The best way to resist temptation is to avoid stocking up on unhealthy foods. Instead, stash snacks of dried and fresh fruit, or nuts and seeds, in the house to snack on.
Why your weight matters
Being overweight increases your heart health risks in a number of ways. Obesity puts a strain on your heart and increases blood pressure. It also makes it harder to exercise, which is vital for heart health.
Carrying excess weight around your middle – abdominal obesity, defined as a waist measurement over 40in for a man, 35in for a woman – is particularly dangerous.
The type of fat you store around your abdomen is dangerous because it’s biologically active and releases chemicals that are damaging to the cardiovascular system. It’s also thought to be linked to high levels of unhealthy cholesterol, which is another heart risk factor. 2
FIND OUT MORE:
Find out more about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, here.
2https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/preventing-heart-disease/managing-your-weight, Accessed September 2018
* One unit of alcohol (10ml) is the equivalent to: A single If you have a sweet tooth, have fruit for dessert. Buy good quality, deliciously sweet fruits such as mangoes and seasonal berries. Try topping them with some low-fat yogurt instead of cream. measure of spirits (ABV 37.5%); half a pint of average-strength (4%) lager; two-thirds of a 125ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine; half a 175ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine; a third of a 250ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine.