There are many risk factors for heart disease and it’s important to take care of all of them. But to manage your cholesterol, the first step is to know your numbers, so you can take control of your heart health.

To manage your cholesterol, a combination of simple changes is best. One of the easiest and most effective ways to lower cholesterol is to include plant sterols in your diet. Flora pro-activ contains plant sterols that are clinically proven to actively lower cholesterol by 7-10% in just 2-3 weeks, which can increase to 15% when moving to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Including Flora pro-activ in your diet is an easy step in moving towards a healthier diet. A healthy diet, healthy lifestyle and exercise are all important factors too.

Take a look at our top tips for keeping your heart healthy.

Tip 1: Get Active

Exercise is good for your heart health, helping you to:

  • Achieve a healthy weight and shape
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Re-energise, de-stress and relax 

How much exercise do I need to do?

Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate activity every day – whether it’s three ten-minute sessions or one half-hour burst. A brisk walk is ideal as it leaves you slightly breathless and increases your heart rate.

Why not…?

  • Take the stairs
  • Park the car further away from your destination
  • Get off the bus a stop earlier
  • Go for a brisk walk before breakfast
  • Cycle on an exercise bike while watching TV
  • Get stuck into some vigorous gardening
  • Use a pedometer and try to take more steps each day
  • Dance around to a CD or tape
  • Have a swim during your lunch hour
  • Record your activity and try to do a little more each day 

Tip 2. Get your five-a-day

Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables provides your body with the fibre, vitamins and minerals that help keep your heart healthy.

What makes up one of my five-a-day?

1 portion = 80g, or any of the following: 1 apple, 1 slice of melon, 2 satsumas [localise], 1 tablespoon of dried fruit, 1 small glass of fruit juice, 3 tablespoons of vegetables, 1 dessert bowl of salad. 

Tip 3. Eat bread, grains, pasta, rice or potatoes

These foods provide energy and dietary fibre along with vitamins and minerals. Choose wholegrain options – from whole-wheat pasta and brown rice to wholemeal or granary bread. 

Tip 4. Good fat vs. bad fat

By boosting ‘good’ fats, and cutting back on ‘bad’ fats in your diet you can help to maintain your heart health.

Good fats

Polyunsaturated fats (omegas 3 and 6) help manage cholesterol levels, which in turn helps maintain a healthy heart. They’re found in oily fish (only omega 3), vegetable oil, and vegetable oil spreads. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, some nuts and avocados.

*Health tip: Try swapping treats that contain full-fat products or pastry with foods such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds.

Bad Fats

Saturated fats can raise ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can be detrimental to your heart health. They’re found in hard cheese, butter, cakes, pastries, and fatty meats such as sausages and burgers. Bad fats are also found in full fat dairy products as well as in processed foods and takeaways.

*Health tips: 
When baking, replace butter with a vegetable oil spread, such as Flora. It’s far lower in ‘bad’ saturated fats and high in ‘good’ unsaturated fats. Where possible, choose low fat dairy: yogurt, semi-skimmed milk, and reduced fat cheese.

Tip 5. Healthier sources of protein

Opt for beans, legumes, lentils, fish, poultry, and lean meat instead of processed and fatty meats. You’ll get the essential protein you need for the growth and repair of cells but you’ll avoid bad fat.
Try to eat two servings of fish a week – one should be oily, such as salmon, mackerel, trout or fresh tuna. Use pulses to occasionally replace or bulk out meat in casseroles and stews.

Tip 6. Cut down on sugar

Avoid foods high in refined sugar, such as cake or other confectionaries, and only have sugary drinks and sweets as a special treat.

Tip 7. Watch your salt

Nutritionists advise adults to consume less than 6g of salt a day. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which in turn is bad for your heart, so only eat these high-salt foods occasionally: 
• Processed foods such as meals 
• Cured and processed meat products such as bacon, sausages and smoked ham 
• Savoury snacks such as crisps and salted nuts 
• Look for low-salt options of soups and sauces

Tip 8: Mind your blood pressure

It is advisable to get your blood pressure checked by a doctor, pharmacist or nurse regularly. This is because high blood pressure can be bad for your heart and cardiovascular system, but often does not produce any symptoms.

Tip 9. Watch your alcohol intake

If you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation – between one and two units a day. Remember, if you’re watching your weight the kilojoule content of alcoholic drinks may work against you.

Tip 10. Manage your stress

Too much stress is not good for heart health. Whether it’s anxiety, panic or feeling under pressure from demands at work or at home, it’s important to create coping mechanisms. Here are some ideas: Recognise what triggers your stress and try to relax Exercise. Gentle cycling, brisk walking or swimming help relieve tension Make time to socialise and talk to your friends Take time to unwind; read, have a bath or do something you enjoy. At work, be sure to break for lunch Try yoga or relaxation classes

Tip 11: Keep your weight in check

Being overweight is not good for your heart and makes it harder to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. But did you know that where you carry fat has more of an impact on your heart health than weight?

Apples and Pears

Carrying more fat around your middle is known as ‘apple shaped’, more on the hips is ‘pear shaped’. It is better to be ‘pear shaped’ than ‘apple shaped’ to keep your heart healthy.To find out if you are a healthy shape, measure your waist circumference by finding the bottom of your ribs and top of your hips and measure your waist at a point mid-way between these.

Slim slowly but surely

Keep waist measurement
Keep waist measurement

It is better to lose weight slowly. Set a goal to lose 5-10% of your current weight over six months and aim to lose a healthy 0.5-1kg per week. Remember, exercise and a healthy diet are essential for weight loss.