Why fish is good for the heart and arthritis

fish is good for the heart and arthritis


. Packed with nutrients

. Experts recommend eating fish two to three times a week

. Limit eating fish that are high in Mercury such as swordfish and marlin

. Anti-inflammatory affect and reduced risk of heart disease

Eating fish brings multiple benefits

Fish has long been considered good for both the heart and the brain but is also valuable in the fight against arthritis. It’s high protein and packed with nutrients such as Vitamin D, B2 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Dieticians and nutritionists recommend eating fish two to three times a week as does the Australian heart foundation.

Studies have shown that it provides benefits in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease and depression as well as helping to lower cholesterol. Webmd goes through all of the health benefits of eating fish including ‘the growth of healthy red blood cells, DNA reproduction, and nerve function.’ It should also be part of your armoury in the battle against arthritis and today we look at how it can be beneficial to both your heart and joints.

But the first thing to note is that there is a sliding scale in terms of which fish provide the most nutritional value. There are certain fish that are best to avoid. As a general rule, try and steer clear of fish that are heavy in mercury such as shark, swordfish and marlin. Mercury is a metallic substance that often attaches itself to fish and can cause long term health issues down the road. Healthline gives you their list of best fish to eat.

What the experts recommend

  • High fish intake is associated with reduced risk of heart disease
  • Fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids are highly regarded

Fish that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids are the choice of the experts. These include Salmon, Mackerel and Herring. If you actively look to incorporate these types of fish into your diet you are on the right path. They are rich in calcium and protein and help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clotting.

The Australian Heart Foundation ‘recommends all Australians should aim to include 2–3 serves of fish per week’ as part of a heart-healthy diet. They go on to say that ‘because our bodies cannot produce omega-3s we need to source them through our diet. The scientific evidence supports fish as the best dietary source of omega3s and found higher fish intake was consistently associated with lower rates of heart disease (heart failure and sudden cardiac death) and stroke.’

However, this study suggests that different types of fish provide different value: ‘Modest consumption of tuna or other broiled or baked fish, but not fried fish or fish sandwiches, is associated with lower risk of IHD death…..Cardiac benefits of fish consumption may vary depending on the type of fish meal consumed.’

The full list of fish that the Heart Foundation recommends are as follows:

‘Fish with the highest levels of omega-3 include salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, herring, canned sardines, canned salmon and some varieties of canned tuna. Other good sources of marine-sourced omega-3s include barramundi, bream, flathead, squid, scallops and mussels.’

Anti-inflammatory affect

The secondary benefit obviously relates to the issue of arthritis and how to best manage the ailment. As this study states: ‘Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce morning stiffness, the number of tender joints and swollen joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.’

But it takes time before you see the full benefits of the program. They say: ‘In our study, a significant improvement was seen at the end of the twelfth week in 7 clinical variables.’

In addition, the Arthritis Foundation states:

‘Research finds that people who regularly eat fish high in omega-3s are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA). And in those who already have the disease, marine omega-3s may help reduce joint swelling and pain. 

The anti-inflammatory effects from omega-3s are helpful not just for relieving arthritis, but also for preventing other diseases linked to inflammation, such as heart disease.’

Healthline also make the point that fish are a great source of Vitamin D, a nutrient research has concluded that arthritis sufferers are often deficient in. Healthdirect points out that both salmon and herring are high in Vitamin D.

The correlation between heart health and arthritis

  • Exercise and diet are mutually beneficial
  • There is a flow-on affect when you look at the big picture

And that’s an important point to note that these two ailments often go together. Your heart relies on exercise and blood circulation but arthritis often prevents people from engaging in any form of physical activity because of the pain and discomfort involved. The arthritis foundation states that ‘these conditions are closely linked and often coexist.’

So you have to look at the big picture. Exercise is important, as is diet, but they often go together. If you can get your diet right that may help with your arthritis which may lead to becoming more mobile down the road which will naturally help your heart because exercise is such a big part of heart health. There may well be a flow-on affect. As the sum of all parts, eating fish regularly is certainly a great start because it’s highly beneficial to both the heart and the joints.

But this is obviously only a small piece of the puzzle and if you want to take a more holistic approach you will need to think about developing a thorough muscle strength program and enacting some lifestyle changes which can help you to manage arthritis. For more information, feel free to read our articles on the importance of muscle strength for seniors and how to manage arthritis.

The best way to cook and prepare fish

And the final point we will look at is the best way to prepare fish and how you can incorporate it into your diet. have given a list of healthy fish recipes that includes Brazilian fish stew, Roasted Chili Lime Cod and Baked sole fillet. Fish soup is another popular choice that is relatively easy to prepare, and if you are looking for a healthy side dish thespruceeats lists asparagus and kale, which can help with cholesterol, blood pressure and weight loss, as among the options.

In terms of how to prepare it, healthline, livestrong and verywellfit have all listed their healthiest ways to prepare fish with baking, grilling and poaching the popular choices. The heart foundation advises against frying fish because it ‘can destroy omega-3s. Further, deep fried fish is also often cooked in unhealthy fats and will not provide heart health benefits.’


Webmd: Health benefits of fish

Fish: Health Benefits, Nutrients per Serving, Preparation Information, and More (

Healthline: 12 best types of fish to eat

Best Fish to Eat: 12 Healthiest Options (

The Heart Foundation: Fish and omega-3: Questions and answers

NCBI: Cardiac benefits of fish consumption may depend on the type of fish and meal consumed: the cardiovascular health study

NCBI: The effect of Omega 3 fatty acids in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis receiving DMARD’s therapy: Double blind randomized control trial

Arthritis Foundation: Best Fish for Arthritis

Healthline: The 10 best foods to eat if you have arthritis Foods high in Vitamin D Healthy fish recipes for easy, everyday meals

Healthline: What is the healthiest way to cook fish?

What Is the Healthiest Way to Cook Fish? (

Livestrong: Healthiest way to cook fish

Verywellfit: 6 healthy ways to cook fish

The Spruce Eats: 15 Delicious Side Dishes for Fish


Berries are all purpose and particularly good for arthritis

berries are good for arthritis


. High in antioxidants

. Significant anti-inflammatory effect

. Help to reduce pain associated with arthritis

Why are berries beneficial?

  • Antioxidants protect and repair cell damage
  • Berries are a rich source of several phytochemicals and nutrients

Berries are a great fruit to incorporate into your diet across all walks of life but particularly if you are a sufferer of arthritis. Diet can impact your management of arthritis and it’s well established that foods such as fish, broccoli and garlic all have therapeutic value but one of the best food groups to incorporate is fruit and vegetables. Berries in particular are considered to be of great benefit and over the course of this article we will look at the nutritional value of berries, strawberries and blueberries.

As the Arthritis foundation states: ‘Berries top the charts in antioxidant power, protecting your body against inflammation and free radicals, molecules that can damage cells and organs’, so they have anti-inflammatory properties and anti-inflammatory effects, which is great news for sufferers of arthritis.

The benefit of fruits

Berries are quite often found in plant based foods, so any diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables is a great start. What antioxidants do is essentially protect and repair cell damage. Arthritis is essentially the wearing away of ageing joints so it’s a natural fit. The Arthritis foundation also tells us that other beneficial fruits that you could consider are tart cherries, avocado, watermelon and grapes.

This study gives the scientific explanation as to why fruits are so beneficial:

‘Dietary fruits, especially berries are a rich source of several phytochemicals and nutrients which may explain much of their physiological effects as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Commonly consumed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are a rich source of several polyphenols.’

As stated here, berries bring with them a potent anti-inflammatory element: ‘Fruits, such as berries and pomegranates are rich sources of a variety of dietary bioactive compounds, especially the polyphenolic flavonoids that have been associated with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.’

Berries help to manage pain and discomfort

One of the issues with arthritis is the pain and discomfort that comes with it. Staying active is important as is losing weight, which releases stress on your knees and joints, but food also plays it’s part. This study suggests that the compounds found in strawberries are a useful weapon in alleviating some of the pain that comes with knee arthritis.

‘Given the economic burden of obesity and related conditions, including knee OA, our study suggests that simple dietary intervention, i.e., the addition of berries, may have a significant impact on pain, inflammation, and overall quality of life in obese adults with OA.’

The following study also suggests that blueberries are beneficial in this regard. It states that ‘Dietary polyphenols have been studied for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential anabolic effects on the cartilage cells. Blueberries are widely consumed and are high in dietary polyphenols, therefore regular consumption of blueberries may help improve OA.’

It goes on to say that ‘blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, as well as pomegranates are among the commonly available fruits that may offer some protection against arthritis.’

What other health benefits do berries provide?

  • High in fiber and can play a role in reducing the risk of cancer and diabetes
  • Can help to lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels

Like many other fruit and vegetables, the great thing about berries is that they provide multiple benefits which is why it’s well worth your while incorporating them into your diet regardless of age or lifestyle. suggests that they help to reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack while indicate that they are also valuable in the fight against cancer. discuss the benefits they bring to the brain and suggest that they help with memory loss to slow down mental decline. This study also states that ‘Recent clinical research has demonstrated that berry fruits can prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases and improve motor and cognitive functions.’


NCBI: Dietary fruits and arthritis

Arthritis Foundation: The health benefits of berries

NCBI: Strawberries improve pain and inflammation in obese adults with radiographic evidence of knee ostheoarthritis

NCBI: Blueberries improve pain, gait performance and inflammation in individuals with symptomatic knee ostheoarthritis

NCBI: Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases

Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases ( Eat blueberries and strawberries three times per week 5 foods that help lower your cancer risk Strong scientific evidence that eating berries benefits the brain

Nutrition Seniors

Arthritis and the Mediterranean diet

Arthritis and the Mediterranean diet


. Some elements of the Mediterranean diet are useful in the fight against arthritis

. Fish, grains and berries are foods you should look to incorporate into your diet

. Use discretion in regards to alcohol when trying to manage arthritis

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The first thing to do is actually define what the Mediterranean diet is. As Mayoclinic says ‘The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. While there is no single definition of the Mediterranean diet, it is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil.’

As a result, heavily processed foods, processed meats, trans fats and added sugars are usually avoided. Because it is based on a particular group of people and their lifestyle, the other major theme that often emerges is that is as much a way of life as a diet. Socialising, communal gatherings, even casual drinking, particularly of red wine, are not just tolerated but often actively encouraged as the social aspect is a major part of it all. Obviously you can take bits and pieces of it as you see fit but if you are going to follow the traditional Mediterraneans to the letter of the law you almost have to think lifestyle as much as diet.

What are the benefits of the Mediterranean diet?

Helpguide gives a good overview of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet as well as some background information and lists the prevention of heart disease, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and the protection against type 2 Diabetes because of the high fiber intake as some of the benefits. Verywellfit gives their own breakdown and lists cancer prevention, benefit to arthritis sufferers, weight loss, slowing down cognitive decline and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol as some of the benefits.

Suffice to say that it’s a very popular and well known diet that has lots of supporters for the mental and physical benefits it possibly provides. Advocates of the Mediterranean diet love the freshness and vibrancy of the food and the fact that it encourages a more traditional way of living. As we said, excess sugar is avoided, meat is eaten sparingly and the focus is on food sourced from the earth – plant foods, fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, all of which can provide value. For flavour, meals are cooked in olive oil and topped up with red wine. Like we said, with so much of the focus on natural food and social interaction, it feels like the sort of diet to really get you in the mood to live life to the fullest.

Is the Mediterranean diet helpful for arthritis?

When constructing a diet to reduce the symptoms of arthritis there are certain foods you can incorporate.  These include fish, grain and berries amongst others. They provide value because they are good at reducing inflammation which is one of the keys to managing arthritis. We have previously looked quite extensively at why fish is good for both the heart and arthritis. Foods you should look to avoid are fats, sugar and salt. It’s a matter of common sense but you should avoid foods that inflame the condition and eat foods that improve the condition.

This health study goes on to say that ‘Twenty-four percent of subjects reported that foods affect their RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis), with 15% reporting improvement and 19% worsening. Blueberries and spinach were the foods most often reported to improve RA symptoms, while soda with sugar and desserts were most often reported to worsen RA symptoms.’ In regards to olive oil this study suggests it has a positive impact. It states that ‘Studies have also shown that incorporation of olive oil in diet decreases the risk of developing RA.’ also backs the virtues of the Mediterranean diet in the battle against arthritis. They discuss certain studies that have proven aspects of the diet to be of benefit. They state that ‘the disease-fighting power of the Mediterranean diet stems from its ability to regulate inflammation by focusing on anti-inflammatory foods (berries, fish, olive oil) and excluding or limiting pro-inflammatory ones (red meat, sugar and most dairy). OA (osteoarthritis) is now known to have an inflammatory component, so this way of eating can lead to real improvements in joint pain.’

What about wine?

Wine is a staple in that part of the world and a key part of the Mediterranean diet but what is its affect on arthritis? The studies are varied but it’s generally accepted that excessive alcohol can be detrimental to those already suffering from the ailment. It can potentially inflame the condition.

But if you drink in moderation, it might not be all bad. You have to find the right balance. In regards to red wine there might be some good news. According to the Arthritis foundation: ‘Red wine has a compound in it called resveratrol, which has well-established anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show wine consumption is associated with a reduced risk of knee OA, and moderate drinking is also associated with a reduced risk of RA.’

But it does also state that ‘many experts question the strength of these studies.’ However, other studies have drawn similar conclusions. This study states that ‘intra-articular injection of resveratrol may protect cartilage against the development of experimentally induced IA.’  

But red wine also has a reputation for bringing other benefits to the table. Healthline looks at its virtues and suggests that it may help both the heart and mental health, promote longevity, help to combat inflammation and also be of benefit because it is rich in antioxidants. Mayoclinic also delves into whether a glass of red wine is good for the heart but the best advice seems to be to tread lightly and do so gently and moderately.

Look at all options

When looking a the big picture, The Mediterranean diet certainly has some elements to it that make it an attractive option. You can certainly source specific nutrients that have proven therapeutic value. But you still have to research thoroughly, consult with your doctor and consider all the other options at your disposal as well.


Mayoclinic: Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan

Mediterranean diet for heart health – Mayo Clinic

Helpguide: Healthy eating – The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean Diet –

Verywellfit: 12 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

12 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet (

NCBI: Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms: Survey Results From a Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry

NCBI: Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Dietary Interventions

Arthritis Foundation: Mediterranean Diet for Osteoarthritis

Arthritis Foundation: Best drinks for arthritis,a%20reduced%20risk%20of%20RA.

NCBI: Effects of resveratrol in inflammatory arthritis

Healthline: Can a Glass of Wine Benefit Your Health?

Mayoclinic: Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?


A guide to healthy eating for the heart

Healthy eating for the heart


. Healthy eating for the heart comes back to balance, moderation and portion control

. Fruit and vegetables should be keenly incorporated into your diet

. Limit salt, fats and sugar

Balance and portion control are keys

Balance is the key to developing a diet that doesn’t put your health in long-term jeopardy. Try and adhere to the basic principles of balance, moderation and portion control. Now let’s move to the specifics. The first point we will address is portion control. Eat what you have to eat and and resist the temptation to splurge because that moves everything out of sync. By doing this you can start to control your weight and sugar level which is important to your long term health.

The most dangerous scenarios are high blood pressure, diabetes and potentially heart disease. By exercising disciplined portion control you can limit your exposure to these harmful ailments. High blood pressure is caused through stress, smoking and a lack of physical activity but can also be caused by your diet. There is a strong correlation between excessive salt as well as certain fats and sugar. By cutting these items out, or at least limiting them, you can minimise the risk of high blood pressure. In regards to diabetes, you also have to be careful with your sugar intake, especially in regards to soft drinks.

How to avoid high blood pressure

  • A high reading is considered to be anything over 140/90
  • Stress, genetics and obesity all play a role

High blood pressure or hypertension relates to the force of blood against the artery walls. A high reading is considered to be anything over 140/90. As webMD points out the exact causes of high blood pressure are not known but things like stress, genetics, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise are thought to play a part. Some of those things are out of your control but certainly exercising and removing stress are things you can actively engage in to lower the risk.

The other thing is obviously to control your diet. The Heart Foundation lists fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and reduced fat and dairy as the areas to focus on in regards to reducing blood pressure. Healthline also provides a list of foods that are beneficial including salmon, berries, beans and lentils, carrots, celery and pistachios. They also provide a list of foods to avoid that includes salt and sodium, deli meats and frozen pizza.

Foods to lower cholesterol

Like blood pressure, cholesterol is something that can be controlled through diet and lifestyle. Exercise plays a big role here as well but in terms of food the faster you can move away from discretionary foods like takeaway, chips, pies, cakes, things of that nature, to a more balanced diet that incorporates the five key food groups the better off you will be.

In terms of specialised foods, Harvard Health lists oats, beans, nuts, foods fortified with sterols and stanols and fatty fish as their preferred items to help lower cholesterol. In terms of foods to avoid, Medical News Today lists sausage, bacon and organ meats such as kidney and liver as foods to eat sparingly. Try and make a concerted effort to limit your consumption of fats, oils, sugar and salt. A good rule of thumb to follow is to try to eat less than fifteen grams of fat and six grams of salt per day.

Protein and energy

  • A healthy serving of fruit and vegetables goes a long way
  • You can also source protein from lean meats and eggs

The next point to consider is what to actually put on your plate. It has to be remembered that part of having a healthy heart is actually having the energy to exercise and stay active which is a crucial part of heart health. So on the one hand it’s good to eat foods that positively influence blood pressure and cholesterol but it’s also good to eat foods that provide you with protein and energy to actually help you exercise on a regular basis and we can look at both. Look to incorporate a healthy serving of fruit and vegetables, grain and certain fish such as tuna and salmon from a holistic sense.

In terms of energy, two key sources are protein and wholegrain. You can source protein from lean meat and eggs as well as fish and poultry and wholegrain that is high in fibre such as oatmeal. Brown rice and bran are also a valuable source of energy. Healthline gives a good overview of the value of brown rice and some of the benefits are certainly heart health and weight loss. It’s good to incorporate these types of food items because they help to keep your weight in check while still giving you ample energy and that’s a good combination to have.

Fruit and vegetables are key to a healthy heart

The other food group that you really have to be diligent about perusing is obviously fruit and vegetables. This should be a staple and is almost mandatory for your long-term health. According to the AIHW, between 2007/8 and 2017/8 approximately 50 per cent of Australians did not meet the fruit recommendations and almost 95 per cent did not meet the guidelines associated with vegetable intake. 7.3 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia was attributed to poor diet and 1.4 per cent was attributed to a diet low in fruit, so it stands to reason that we all need to be vigilant about our food choices.

Healthline gives a list of heart healthy foods and there are several fruit and vegetables listed including leafy green vegetables, berries, avocados, beans and tomatoes. The great thing is that fruit and vegetables also provide you with so many other benefits. They are high in fiber, reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes, and provide numerous nutrients and minerals that help to improve your quality of life. This list of 50 foods that are super healthy gives a great overview of what you should be eating and why fruit and vegetables must be a priority.

Australian dietary guidelines

  • Source items from the five key food groups
  • No single food can provide all the required nutrients

According to the Australian dietary guidelines, one should make a concerted effort to source items from the five key food groups. The recommendation is that we seek a wide variety of food to achieve a balanced diet, not always in one day but certainly over the course of a week. As stated in the guidelines: ‘No single food can provide all the nutrients in the amounts needed for good health’. You have to expand your boundaries and actively source those nutrients.

The evidence for consuming a wide variety of foods as summarised in the guidelines suggests that a ‘higher quality diet is associated with reduced morbidity’ and that ‘diversity in food intake can reduce an individual’s exposure to any one group of toxicants.’ But it also goes on to say that Australians as a general rule eat from a wide variety of cuisines which should supply the ‘nutritional needs of the population but appropriate choices must be made to ensure that all nutritional requirements are met.’


WebMD: Causes of high blood pressure

Heart Foundation: 5 Foods to help lower blood pressure

Five foods to help lower blood pressure (

Healthline: The 17 Best Foods for High Blood Pressure

The 17 Best Foods for High Blood Pressure (

Healthline: Eating with High Blood Pressure: Food and Drinks to Avoid

Eating with High Blood Pressure: 9 Foods and Drinks to Avoid (

Harvard Health: 5 foods that avoid high cholesterol

5 foods that fight high cholesterol – Harvard Health

Medical News Today: Foods with high cholesterol to avoid and include

High-cholesterol foods: Foods to avoid and include (

Healthline: Is brown rice good for you?

Is Brown Rice Good for You? Benefits, Weight Loss and Nutrition (

AIHW stats: Poor diet

Healthline: 15 incredible heart healthy foods

Healthline: 50 foods that are super healthy

50 Foods That Are Super Healthy (

Australian dietary guidelines pages 32-33

Exercise Nutrition Seniors

What are the basics of heart health?

Diet, exercise and lifestyle keep your heart healthy


. The basics of heart health come back to exercise, nutrition and lifestyle

. Quit smoking, avoid stress, minimise alcohol and stay active

. Develop a diet that sources items from the five key food groups

This is an overview of the basics of heart health. The core tenets are exercise, nutrition and lifestyle. I’m sure many of you have heard the basics before but it’s good to remind ourselves from time to time. For a change, we’ll start with lifestyle. It’s paramount to remove stress from your life. While often easier said than done, everything else will flow from the basic philosophy. Control the controllables, enjoy the simplicities and make it a point to spend time with your friends and family. You will be amazed at how much better you feel once you cut out negativity from your life.

Read a book, go for a walk, spend time outdoors and genuinely try and make time each week to unwind. It’s impossible to stay ‘up’ all the time and you need that break mentally which helps you physically. Try and learn new skills and gain new hobbies to keep your mind active and body productive. All of these little things add up in the long run when trying to achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle of mind, body and spirit. An active mind and a stress free life is a great start when looking to preserve your long term health.

Smoking and alcohol

The other major steps you can take are to quit smoking, reduce alcohol and stay active. If you can do some sort of physical activity two to three times a week, cut out smoking completely and take alcohol in moderation you will go a long way to reducing the risk of heart disease. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) smoking is the most ‘preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia’ but the good news is that the message is getting through. Eleven per cent of people aged 14 and over smoked regularly in 2019 which is down from 24 per cent in 1991.

That’s a positive trend line and one that is certainly good for the long term health of the nation. But alcohol is obviously the other lifestyle choice that needs to be kept in moderation to prevent not just anti-social behaviour but also to prevent any long-term health issues from arising. According to the AIHW one in four people consumes alcohol at a level that places them in harm on a single occasion and one in six people takes alcohol at levels that places their long term health in jeopardy and these are obviously slightly concerning statistics. But the key is moderation and common sense, and if you apply these two principles diligently you should be fine.

Diet is the key to a healthy heart

The next point we will look at is nutrition. The key point with nutrition is balance. You have to develop a balanced diet that gives you sufficient nutrients and energy from all the key food groups. As a general rule, a balanced diet is considered to be one that takes the key elements of the five food groups of fruit, vegetables, grain, dairy and protein sourced through lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs.

If you make it a point to incorporate those five food groups into your diet on a regular basis you will be well on your way to achieving a balanced diet which will go a long way to preserving your long term health. But there is certainly some work to do. According to the AIHW, only one in ten adults in Australia met the recommendations for daily vegetable consumption in 2017-18 and there was also an unhealthy intake of discretionary and counterproductive foods such as salt, fat and sugar. The heart foundation recommends eating ‘at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day.’ The fruits that are most highly recommended are berries, tomatoes and avocados and the vegetables that are highly regarded include beans and green vegetables.

And the final point that often gets asked about in regards to diet is whether olive oil should be used. The heart foundation states: Olive oil is a healthy and versatile oil that you can use with a variety of cooking methods. Olive oil is a great option for medium-temperature frying (i.e. stir frying or warming food in a pan).  Oils that are suitable for high-temperature frying (e.g. deep frying) include extra virgin olive oil, high oleic canola oil and high oleic peanut oil, as they are more stable at high temperatures. 

And finally we will look at exercise. This study concluded that a lack of physical activity can be responsible for over 35 chronic diseases and conditions. These include coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other high cardiovascular risk factors. The evidence presented suggests that a lack of physical activity increases the decline in skeletal muscle strength and cognition which can lead to ‘both shorter health span and early mortality.’

This is particularly relevant to older Australians. According to the AIHW, 75 per cent of people over the age of 65 were not sufficiently active in 2014/15. Another study suggested that the evidence is there that regular physical activity is safe for older people and that a lot of the high risks ailments such as cardiovascular diseases and cognitive impairments decrease through regular exercise.

While the percentages are certainly better, younger people also need to be mindful to exercise adequately. A national health survey in 2014/15 indicated that almost one in three 18-64 year olds were not sufficiently active per the recommended 150 minutes per week while just under 15 per cent were completely inactive and did no exercise at all over the course of a week.

This is obviously a recipe for problems down the road and it’s important to get into a rhythm early on and maintain that as you get older to avoid any long term health problems that are bound to arise if you maintain an inactive and sedentary lifestyle. According to the ABS, if ‘Australians did an extra 15 minutes of brisk walking for at least five days each week this would reduce disease burden due to physical inactivity in the population by approximately 13%.’ If this was increased to 30 minutes the burden of disease could be reduced by up to 26%, so the incentive is certainly there to get fit and get healthy.

What type of exercise?

If you fall in that 18-64 age bracket the Australian Heart Foundation recommends doing some form of physical activity five days a week (2.5-5 hours of moderate activity or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous activity), which leaves you with quite a bit of flexibility as to how you plan on structuring your fitness diary. The physical activities recommend include walking, swimming, yoga, skipping, cycling and martial arts.

Hopkins Medicine states that you should try and achieve a mix of aerobic exercise, resistance training, stretching, flexibility and balance to create a diverse program that provides holistic health benefit that includes improving blood circulation, weight loss and body preparation which will enable you to fully commit to a thorough fitness schedule. This will in turn help you to lower your heart rate and blood pressure and hopefully put you on the path to being fit and healthy.

Sleep and blood pressure

The final points we will address today relate to sleep and blood pressure. There is a correlation between a good night’s sleep and a healthy heart. Hopkins Medicine states: ‘Without enough sleep, your risk for heart disease and heart attack goes up—no matter what your age, your weight, or how much you exercise or smoke.’ The Heart Foundation adds that sleep deprivation is ‘associated with high blood pressure, a known risk factor associated with heart disease.’

The experts recommend at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night for multiple reasons. It’s a great stress reliever, it’s a lifestyle choice and an acknowledgement that you need rest and recuperation. It affects your mood, your social interactions and poor sleep habits have been previously linked with depression. And finally, it affects your functionality. Without proper sleep you’re not as sharp or mentally alert, so not just for your heart but your overall wellbeing you’re doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t get adequate rest.

The Heart Foundation states that while there is no one cause for high blood pressure, several factors can contribute including: 

  • Family history 
  • Eating patterns (including salty foods) 
  • Alcohol intake 
  • Smoking 
  • Weight 
  • Physical activity and exercise levels. 

It goes on to say that it can be elevated by ‘stress, your emotional state, recent physical activity, caffeine consumption or even talking.’ 

The great news is that you can lower your blood pressure by actioning all of the items we have talked about – Diet, exercise and lifestyle. That’s one of the reasons why we left this until last because if you do all of the above as well as get checked regularly your long-term forecast will naturally improve and hopefully your blood pressure will return to more normal levels if there is any reason for concern.


AIHW Smoking stats: Smoking Overview

AIWH Alcohol stats: Alcohol Overview

AIHW Fruit and Veg stats: Food and Nutrition Overview

Heart Foundation: Fruit, vegetables and heart health

Heart Foundation: 9 food and heart health myths, busted

NCBI: Role of Inactivity in Chronic Diseases: Evolutionary Insight and Pathophysiological Mechanisms

NCBI: Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy ageing and frailty

ABS health stats: Research and Statistics

AIHW fitness stats: Australia’s Health 2018

Hopkins Medicine: Do Your Heart a Favor – Get More Sleep

Heart Foundation: How does sleep affect your heart?

Heart Foundation: Blood pressure and your heart

Heart Foundation: Physical activity and your heart health

Physical Activity and Exercise | Heart Foundation

Hopkins Medicine: 3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health

3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine



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