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Men’s Heart Health: 10 Effective Strategies for Cholesterol Control

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Coronary heart disease remains a significant cause of mortality in the UK and globally. It happens when a buildup of fatty substances in the coronary arteries obstructs the heart’s blood supply, potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise contribute to this condition, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Jane McClenaghan, a prominent nutritionist, offers ten effective strategies for cholesterol control to enhance men’s health. These insights aim to help men reduce their risk of heart disease through manageable lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments. Whether you have a family history of heart disease or want to prioritise your heart health, these tips provide a practical approach to maintaining cardiovascular wellness.

How can I reduce my risk of heart disease?

Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death in the UK and across the world. It occurs when a buildup of fatty substances (atherosclerosis) in the coronary arteries interrupts or blocks your heart’s blood supply, which can eventually cause a heart attack or stroke.

Lifestyle choices like smoking, binge drinking, a poor diet, and a lack of exercise can contribute to this fatty buildup.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes also increase the risk of atherosclerosis.

The main symptoms of coronary heart disease are:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in your neck, shoulders, jaw or arms
  • Feeling faint
  • Feeling sick (nausea)

Whether you have a family history of heart disease, have been given a diagnosis of high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, or simply because you want to do your best to look after your heart, a few simple changes to your daily food habits and lifestyle can really reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol, exercising regularly, watching your weight and eating a healthy diet can significantly reduce your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.

How does heart disease affect men?

Heart disease affects more men than women. Some reasons for this include the cardioprotective effect of oestrogen before menopause, but it is also thought that some of this could be down to how men handle stress differently than women, differences in diet and lifestyle and that men may be less likely to seek medical advice.

How can I make my heart stronger?

1. Cut your kcals

Cutting back on empty calories and not eating more than you need sounds like common sense, but did you know that it can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease?
Even a small drop in your daily calorie intake can have a big impact. The easy way to do this is to cut back on snacks and reduce your portion sizes a little.

2. Time your meals

Circadian fasting, or time-restricted eating, is sometimes known as intermittent fasting. This way of eating means having an overnight fast of between 12 and 16 hours.

As well as helping with weight loss, this pattern of eating may improve blood pressure, cholesterol balance, triglyceride levels, and risk of type 2 diabetes.

Start by shifting your breakfast a little later and stopping eating earlier in the evening. Studies show that eating most of your food earlier in the day may have the most benefits for heart health and thoughts are that this is because it corresponds to our natural circadian rhythm.

3. A daily dose of omega 3 fats

A diet high in saturated fats may increase levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad one), but rather than adopting a low-fat diet, switching to a “better fat diet” could have a lot more benefits for your heart. Studies show that omega 3 fats help reduce risk factors for heart disease. Good sources include oily fish, flaxseed and hemp seeds. Here’s how you are improve your healthy fat balance:

Aim to eat oily fish like sardines, mackerel, herring and trout 2–3 times a week

Add Linwoods Milled Flaxseed or shelled hemp to your daily diet – great in yoghurt, smoothies and overnight oats

4. A taste of the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its benefits for heart health. Packed with ingredients like polyphenols from colourful fruit, vegetables and herbs, healthy fats from olives and olive oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds; and fibre from wholegrains and pulses.

Here are some simple ways to add a taste of the Mediterranean to your diet:

  • Add a drizzle of olive oil to salads and steamed vegetables.
  • Eat oily fish three times a week.
  • Eat a rainbow of colourful fruit and vegetables.
  • Use beans and lentils in soups, salads, and one-pot wonders.
  • Use herbs like rosemary and thyme.

5. Eat more fibre

Replacing white and refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and white pasta with their wholegrain alternatives will add more fibre to your diet and help balance blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Here are some tips to introduce more fibre to your diet: 

  • Use jumbo oats for overnight oats or porridge and top with Linwoods milled flaxseed or shelled hemp.
  • Make the switch to wholegrains like brown rice, wholemeal pasta, and higher-fibre noodles.
  • Choose oatcakes instead of crackers.
  • Eat the skins of fruit and vegetables.
  • Add beans and lentils to salads, curries, and stews.

6. Cut the sugars

Sugar is bad news for your heart. It increases cholesterol, stores more body fat around the middle and messes with your blood sugar-insulin balance.

Start reading labels and notice how much sugar is in the food you eat.

  • Low sugar = 5g sugar per 100g or less
  • High sugar = 22g per 100 g or less

Breakfast cereals (even healthy-looking ones), sauces, biscuits, sweets and baked goods can be laden with sugar.

7. Cut back on alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, so keep an eye on your intake. Less is more and despite what you have heard, a daily glass of wine is not recommended to reduce your risk of heart disease. The recommended limit is a maximum of 14 units of alcohol, spread across 3 days.

8. Keep an eye on your salt intake

Too much salt can increase blood pressure. Foods like cheese, bacon and ham, processed foods, breakfast cereals and biscuits can be high in salt. Keep your levels below 6g a day and look at the traffic light system on food labels to make sure you are choosing a low-salt option.

9. Address the stress

Stress is a big player when it comes to heart disease, so finding ways to help you cope with the stresses and strains of life is an essential life skill. Talking to friends and family, being in nature, practising yoga, and practising mindfulness can all be useful techniques to help balance stress.

10. Move your body

Daily exercise can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Build it up gradually if this is new for you. The NHS’s recommendations for physical exercise are below.

Here are some NHS recommendations for physical exercise

  • Strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) on at least two days a week.
  • At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.
  • Spread exercise evenly over 4–5 days a week, or every day.
  • Reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.

Linwoods recognises that it’s the little things we do every day that make the biggest difference to our health, so we will be providing a hub of information, including tools and tips to support men’s health. Check out their Wellness Hub and their social media channels, where you’ll find more great advice.

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