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UK Dietary Guidelines - Heart
Food and Diet Advice to Reduce Heart Disease
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Food & Eating Advice From Heart Foundation For Optimum Cardiovascular Health

UK Dietary Guidelines - Heart

For the best UK healthy-heart dietary guidelines, we draw your attention to the diet and nutrition advice offered by the leading heart authority in the UK - the British Heart Foundation.

Summary of Dietary Guidelines - British Heart Foundation

1. Your Diet Affects Your Heart

Following a healthy diet can substantially reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and can also increase the chances of survival after a heart attack.

2. Dietary Guidelines - Fruit and Vegetables

Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, probably by helping to prevent atheroma from building up within the inside walls of the coronary arteries.

3. Dietary Guidelines - Fats

Reducing the total amount of fat you eat will reduce the amount of fats in your blood.

Replacing some saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats will help to improve the ratio of 'protective' cholesterol to 'harmful' cholesterol in your blood.

4. Dietary Guidelines - Oily Fish

Eating oily fish regularly can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also to improve the chances of survival after a heart attack. We do not know exactly how it helps. It may be by helping to keep the heartbeat regular, reducing the level of triglycerides (fatty substances found in the blood), and preventing blood clots from forming in the coronary arteries.

5. Weight Guidelines - A Healthy Weight

If you are overweight, reducing your weight will reduce the workload of your heart and help keep your blood pressure down.

6. Dietary Guidelines - Salt

Reducing the amount of salt you eat will also help keep your blood pressure down.

7. Dietary Guidelines - Alcohol

Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and also lead to weight gain. However, moderate drinking (between 1 and 2 units of alcohol a day) can help protect the heart in men aged over 40 and women who have gone through the menopause.

Find out more about the effects of diet and heart disease with the British Heart Foundation, at www.bhf.org.uk.


Dietary Guidelines - Heart

Diet Rich in Fruit and Vegetables

There is good evidence that eating a diet that is rich in a range of vegetables and fruits lowers the risk of heart disease. It is not known exactly why fruit and vegetables have this good effect. It seems to be due to the antioxidants (vitamins and other substances) in the fruit and vegetables. Antioxidants prevent 'oxidation' - the chemical process which allows cholesterol to form atheroma within the coronary artery walls. However, there is no evidence that taking vitamin tablets has the same effect.

Fruit and vegetables are also rich in potassium, a mineral which may help to control blood pressure and prevent irregular heart rhythms. Fruit and green vegetables are also rich in folic acid. This reduces the blood level of a substance called homocysteine, which itself may be a risk factor for heart disease. However, more research is needed to find out whether eating more folic acid will, by itself, reduce heart disease.

Dietary Recommendations

  • Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. On average, people in the UK eat only three portions a day. Five portions may sound a lot, but in some countries people eat an average of eight or nine portions a day.
  • Try to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. They can be fresh, frozen or tinned. Fruit juice counts, but only for one portion a day. Potatoes are a good source of starch but do not count in the 'five a day' advice.

What Counts as a Portion?


Apple, orange or banana = 1 Fruit
Very large fruit (e.g. melon or pineapple) = 1 large slice
Small fruits (e.g. plums, kiwis, satsumas) = 2 fruit
Raspberries, strawberies and grapes = 1 cupful
Fresh fruit salad or stewed or canned fruit = 2-3 tablespoonfuls
Dried fruit = 1/2 - 1 tablespoonful
Fruit juice = 1 glass (150mls)


Raw, cooked, frozen or canned vegetables = 2 tablespoonfuls
Salad = 1 dessert bowl-full.


Diet of Reduced Fats and Cholesterol

Eat Less fats to Reduce Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is mainly made in the body. The liver makes it from the saturated fats in food. The cholesterol enters the blood and is carried around by proteins. These combinations of cholesterol and proteins are called 'lipoproteins'. There are two main types of lipoproteins - low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). There is also a group of fatty substances in the blood called 'triglycerides'.

Atheroma develops when LDL cholesterol undergoes a chemical process called 'oxidation' and is taken up by cells in the coronary artery walls where the narrowing process begins. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol removes cholesterol from the circulation, and appears to protect against coronary heart disease. So the ratio of HDL to LDL is important. The goal is to have a low level of LDL and a high level of HDL.

Eating a healthy diet can help to reduce your cholesterol level and improve your ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol. It is possible to reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood by between 5% and 10% just by eating healthily. On average, reducing cholesterol by 1% can lower the risk of coronary heart disease by 2%.

Cholesterol is not found in large amounts in many foods, except in eggs and in offal such as liver and kidneys. The cholesterol in these foods does not usually make a great contribution to your blood cholesterol level, but it is probably wise to limit eggs to about three a week. If you need to reduce your cholesterol level, it is much more important to reduce the total amount of fat you eat, and to change the types of fat you eat.

Eating a high fibre diet may also help to reduce the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from your intestine into the bloodstream.

Dietary Recommendations for Reducing Cholesterol and Choosing Healthier Fats

  • Reduce the total amount of fat you eat and eat starchy foods instead (bread, pasta, rice, cereals and potatoes).
  • Cut right down on saturated fats and substitute them with small amounts of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
  • Eating oily fish regularly can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and to improve the chances of survival after a heart attack.
  • The particular oil in fish that has these good effects is known as 'omega-3'. It is found mainly in oily fish such as herring, kippers, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, trout and anchovies. Try to eat oily fish about twice a week.
  • Your doctor may prescribe fish oil capsules in order to reduce your blood triglyceride level.


Maintain a Healthy Weight

Remember that losing weight involves both eating healthily and increasing physical activity.

By keeping close to a healthier weight for your height, you will keep your blood pressure down and reduce the workload of your heart. Remember that losing weight involves both eating healthily and increasing physical activity.

There are several different ways of working out if you are overweight. One way to get a rough idea is just by measuring your waist. Measure your waist, around the fattest part.

In Men
37 to 40 inch waist = Overweight
40 inches or over = Obese (very overweight)

In Women
32 to 35 inch waist = Overweight
35 inches or over = Obese (very overweight)

Your doctor or a dietitian may take your height and weight measurements to work out whether you are overweight or obese. He or she may also use these measurements to work out your body mass index (BMI), which combines height and weight into a single figure.


Reduce Intake of Salt (Sodium)

There is a link between high salt intake and high blood pressure.

People who have a lot of salt in their diet seem to be more likely to have high blood pressure. It is not yet known exactly why this happens.

It is the sodium in the salt that contributes to high blood pressure. Most people eat many times the amount of salt we need. The recommended maximum is 6 grams a day, but the body only really needs 1 gram. (One gram of salt is about one-fifth of a teaspoonful).

Dietary Recommendation - Salt (Sodium)

  • To cut down on salt, first try not adding salt to your food at the table.
  • Later on, try cooking without adding any salt. (You can add herbs and spices to add flavour instead).
  • You may also want to check the ingredients labels on foods, to find out how much sodium they contain.
  • You will find that within a month your palate will have adjusted and you won't like salty foods! You will get all the salt you need from the 'hidden salt' in processed foods and bread.


Alcohol in Diet

Moderate drinking is between 1 and 2 units of alcohol a day.

Moderate drinking - between 1 and 2 units of alcohol a day - has a protective effect on the heart in men aged over 40 and in women who have gone through the menopause. One unit of alcohol equals half a pint of ordinary beer or a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits.

However, heavier drinking can contribute to heart disorders, including high blood pressure and stroke.

For every unit over the limits shown above, systolic blood pressure is likely to be raised by 1mmHg.

Source: British Heart Foundation

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