Heart disease is now the biggest cause of death for women in the UK. But when was the last time you gave a second thought to your heart?
We asked dietician Helen Bond for her top tips for women in their 20s to keep your heart ticking over and prevent future problems.
It’s easy to just think if it’s beating, it’s working and assume everything’s fine. But that old chestnut of modern lifestyles with their limited exercise, processed foods and stress levels means our hearts are increasingly under strain.
Helen tells us that now is actually the ideal time to start paying attention to your heart health.
“When you’re in your 20s it’s the decade for enjoying life but some of the common behaviours like smoking, drinking and lack of exercise are putting down bad things for your future health,” she says.
“It’s actually a really important time for heart health. Cholesterol levels go up with age so you want to get into good habits.
“On another note, it’s also the last time you are able to strengthen your bones and ward off osteoporosis because bones are still forming.”
“Women in their 20s are putting down foundations that last a lifetime. As you get older you don’t realise your body changes, certainly with regard to weight,” explains Helen.
“It’s easier to stay slim when you’re younger because your metabolism is higher and usually you have more muscle."
“Unfortunately you metabolism can decrease by up to 10 per cent in your 30s, so getting to a healthy weight that you can maintain when you’re younger will make it easier.
“If you’re putting on fat around your abdomen it’s a sign of internal fat, which puts you at more risk of heart problems, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Losing 10 per cent of your weight can cut bad cholesterol by up to 15 per cent and helps to raise good cholesterol.”
What should you eat more of?
“Obviously fruits and veg are ideal, packed full of antioxidants. Also add wholegrain foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice and oats, which contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan that lowers cholesterol naturally.
“You also want oily and lean fish and small amounts of unsaturated fats.”
What should you eat less of?
“If you’re eating well 80 per cent of the time, it’s OK to treat yourself to less healthy foods for the other 20 per cent. Just remember, it’s all in moderation.
“Cutting down on heavily processed foods is good for heart health and for losing weight.”
“When you’re looking at saturated fat on labels, look for something low in saturated fat. High levels are more than 5g per 100g.”
“Exercise in your 20s and 30s tends to go out of the window. Your 30s is generally the busiest time of your life with work, kids, long hours. Energy levels suffer, often you don’t eat properly maybe snacking on your kids’ food and skipping meals.”
“But exercise is so important for your heart health. It keeps your metabolism high, meaning you can keep weight off. It even raises levels of good cholesterol, which can only be done by exercising.”
Helen is working with Benecol on their Better Together campaign to make people more aware of their heart health and cholesterol levels.