Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle is essential when it comes to keeping your heart healthy as you age. But don’t worry – switching up your eating habits isn’t as difficult as it sometimes seems. Here, nutritionist Sarah Flower is here to help talk us through the nutrients to look out for that may help to lower your cholesterol and keep your heart happy.
1. Watch out for calcium
Too much calcium results in the body trying to break it down and expel it, by producing kidney and gall stones, calcification in the joints, and arterial plaque. This could be due to too much calcium in your diet or poor calcium supplementation (calcium carbonate is not a form the body can utilise). Choose good sources of calcium such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
2. Look out for lycopene
This powerful antioxidant really packs a punch. Promising studies show that it may help with inflammation – one of the mechanisms for cardio-protective effects. It is also thought that lycopene helps increase the flexibility of the arteries and the sensitivity of blood vessels to nitric oxide, which helps to increase blood flow and flexibility of the blood vessel walls. Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, as are many other red fruit vegetables. You can also add it to your diet via supplements, such as CardioMato.
3. Embrace magnesium
Magnesium is vital for heart health. The heart is a muscle, which thrives on magnesium, helping the muscles relax. A meta-analysis of 7 studies, including over 240,000 participants, showed that every 100mcg increase in magnesium intake reduced the risk of ischemic stroke by 8-9%. It’s also needed to help with calcium absorption and placement. Include magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
4. Be kind to your gut with probiotics
Good bowel flora not only boosts the immune system and aids digestion, it may also help to break down unwanted cholesterol. Stress, ill-health and poor diet can upset your natural bowel flora, so opt for a good quality probiotic to keep your gut healthy and balanced. A healthy gut is also essential for many of your body’s processes.
5. Go fish
Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in brain function, normal growth and development, and inflammation. Deficiencies have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Try to incorporate plenty of oily fish such as salmon and mackerel in to a balanced diet.
6. Soak up the vitamin D
Your body naturally regulates cholesterol with the aid of Vitamin D, bowel flora and bile – if you have too little cholesterol in your diet your liver will actually produce more cholesterol. If you have too much, it will produce less cholesterol. Vitamin D helps to break cholesterol down and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Try to get at least 15 minutes of natural sun per day or take a Vitamin D supplement, specifically Vitamin D3.
If you have high cholesterol and want to know how to lower it, or whether any natural supplements may interfere with existing medication, it is always best to speak to your GP, or make an appointment with a qualified nutritional professional.