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Wear Red Day for Cardiovascular Disease

Apart from Valentine’s Day, 14th February also marks Wear Red Day across Australia.  A Heart Research Australia initiative, Wear Red Day is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease, be it in your immediate family, town or across the country. It is also a timely reminder to examine the impact that our diet and lifestyle can have on cardiovascular disease risk.

Whilst our age, gender and genes are non-modifiable risk factors for heart disease, there is one thing we can change to reduce our risk of developing (and the progression of) heart disease. Diet.

Diet and Cardiovascular Disease

One of the most well-researched diets with the greatest impact on reducing cardiovascular disease risk is the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet is not truly a ‘diet’ in the traditional sense, but more to do with dietary patterns, based around the regularity of particular foods.

Greece, Spain and Italy have some of the lowest mortality rates in the world when it comes to cardiovascular disease, despite a very high intake of dietary fats.

This is largely thought to be attributed to the type of dietary fat being consumed.

So, What is The Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet is a dietary pattern known for its’ heavy emphasis on ‘good’ fats, specifically monounsaturated fats from extra virgin olive oil.

Foods to Consume

This diet includes all types of unprocessed meat (red meat, chicken/poultry, seafood) but limits the consumption of red meat to no more than 1-2 times per week.

It encourages an increased consumption of seafood (particularly oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel) and plant based proteins such as lentils and other legumes. This is because a higher intake of omega 3 fats (relative to omega 6 fats) is known to favour the anti-inflammatory pathways associated with protecting the heart and blood vessels.

More so, consuming a high intake of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and true wholegrains (pearl barley, quinoa, buckwheat etc) should be a daily priority. Similar to the inclusion of nut portions (about 30g daily) and the use of extra virgin olive oil (up 60ml daily) when cooking.

Foods to Avoid

Foods to be limited when following the Mediterranean Diet include:

  • Foods with high amounts of added sugars or saturated fats (cakes, biscuits, chocolate, butter, cream)
  • Processed meats (salami, sausages etc)

Limited alcohol can be consumed, no more than 1-2 standard drinks each day and ideally with a few alcohol-free days each week.

All in all, making the switch to the Mediterranean Diet (or simply being conscious of your “bad fats” intake), as well as regular exercise whilst working closely with your GP can significantly improve your cardiovascular health. For individual help with your diet, or making the switch, get in touch with one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians from Fuel Your Life!

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