Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the US, as well as the UK, killing one in four of us. That’s a sobering stat, but scientists have revealed good news too with a slew of studies showing that simple life hacks, from eating blueberries to working out 4-5 days a week, can improve your heart health and eventual chances of survival.
Here’s what you need to know…
‘Eating one cup of blueberries a day can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 15%’
Eat A Cup Of Blueberries A Day
Blueberries seem to buck the trend in sweet, delicious things by being consistently found to be very good for you. Now, a 2019 study from the University of East Anglia says that eating one cup (150g) of blueberries a day can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 15%. the authors says that previous studies have shown that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, possibly due to the fact that blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue colour in fruits.
By testing people with metabolic syndrome, who were already at risk of these conditions, they established that the blueberry effect works even if you already have poor health. ‘The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health,’ they say.
‘Exercising 4-5 times a week keeps the body’s larger central arteries youthful’
Workout 4-5 Days A Week
If you’re looking for even more motivation to get stuck into a new workout programme, then you’ll be pleased to know that regular exercisers can slow down the rate at which their hearts age. A 2018 study published in The Journal Of Physiology looked at groups of exercisers and split them into groups according to how many workouts of at least 30 minutes they did, every week.
As we age our arteries stiffen, increasing the risk of heart disease, but the team discovered that through regular, weekly exercise this risk can be cut. Doing a lifetime of casual exercise (2-3 times per week) was enough to minimise the stiffening of medium-sized arteries, but exercising 4-5 times a week was needed in order to keep the body’s larger central arteries youthful.
‘This work is really exciting because it enables us to develop exercise programmes to keep the heart youthful and even turn back time on older hearts and blood vessels,’ says Benjamin Levine, one of the authors of the study. So, ditch those excuses and head down to the gym today!
Get At Least Seven Hours Of Good Sleep
The effect of chronic insomnia on your heart health isn’t good – it raises your blood pressure (because you spend less time asleep, which is when it drops) and is linked to heart disease. A 2014 study by the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people who said that they got less than seven hours of sleep a night were more likely to report health problems, including heart attacks.
Don’t Cut Out Carbs
The backlash against sugar has led some people to think that switching to a low-carb diet is a shortcut to better all-round health, as well as a slimmer waistline. There’s just one problem – wholegrain carbs such as oats, and wholegrain bread are packed full of fibre, and a 2019 review by the World Health Organisation found that high fibre diets (which are naturally high-ish in carbs) resulted in six fewer cases of heart disease in every 1,000 people who eat high-fibre foods, compared to those who do not.
People who ate 25g-29g of dietary fibre a day had a 15-30% decrease in cardiovascular related deaths. (And the risk of having colorectal cancer and strokes also fell significantly.) Only 9% of people (in the UK) eat this level of fibre, so boost your intake with foods like wholegrain bread (2g per slice), baked beans (6.8g in a 150g serving), and fruit (2-3g in a medium apple).
Reach For Beetroot
The next time you make a smoothie, chunk some beetroot in there. They are one of the richest dietary sources of nitrates, which help to dilate blood vessels, decreasing blood pressure and boosting heart health. They are also a source of betacyanin, an antioxidant important for hearth health, as well as vitamin C, iron, folate, magnesium and dietary fibre, which as we have seen (above), will do your cardiovascular system a massive favour too.
WHAT NEXT? Want to get your heart pumping? Then try these RSNG Gym Cheats You Can Use to become more active, boost your heart health and achieve workout gains.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
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