Healthy Eating & Physical Activity for:

a healthy heart

This fact sheet aims to identify the main age-related changes and conditions affecting bones and muscles; it will also outline healthy eating and physical activity that may help prevent, or delay, onset of these changes/conditions.

Age-related changes and conditions

As we age, our metabolism slows down as does our heart rate. Blood vessels become stiffer, blood pressure and blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) increase. These changes lead to a higher risk of developing hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke.

Hypertension is characterised by a blood pressure above 140/90mmHg. People with hypertension are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases e.g. coronary heart diseases and stroke.

Coronary heart disease and stroke are caused by the blockage of the vessels supplying the heart and brain, respectively. They are often linked to the build-up of fats in these vessels; people with higher cholesterol levels or high blood pressure are more at risk.

Heart disease factors:

Foods to eat

The best foods to eat to obtain all the nutrients essential to maintaining healthy bones and muscles include:

  • Vegetables (particularly leafy greens)
  • Wholegrains
  • Lean animal proteins and/or plant proteins
  • Oily fish
  • Tinned fish (which includes bones)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds

Main factors increasing risk of heart related conditions

  • Smoking and excess alcohol
  • Race – risk is increased in those of South Asian, African or African Caribbean descent.
  • Family history – risk is increased if you have a family member with heart disease.
  • Gender – males have a higher risk than females.
  • Age
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Medications – some medications increase risk -ask your GP.
  • Hormones – increased risk inpostmenopausal women.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Too much salt
  • Stress

Did you know?

There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.

Key nutrients

Key nutrients to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system are:

  • Fibre
  • Vitamin D
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Fibre is important for heart health as it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. Vitamin D and calcium work together to maintain cardiovascular health; folate and vitamin B12 work together to produce healthy red blood cells. Calcium and potassium are involved in the regulation of blood pressure while both calcium and magnesium help maintain a healthy heart beat.

Foods to eat

The best foods to eat to for a healthy heart include:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Wholegrains
  • Lean red meat and poultry
  • Oily fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds

Reduce consumption of saturated fats and free sugars.

This table provides a rough guide to foods containing key micronutrients with the approximate % of daily requirement (%DR); this is not a comprehensive list.

Tips

  • Over 50? Medical condition? – consult a GP before starting an exercise programme.
  • Engage a personal trainer; optimise YOUR needs, and YOUR health.
  • Warm up before exercise and cool down after.
  • Do exercises correctly to reduce risk of injury.

Physical Activity

There are two types of physical activity: strength/resistance and cardiovascular. Keeping physically active is essential to maintaining a healthy heart.

Cardiovascular exercise is particularly important for older adults to exercise the heart muscle and keep the cardiovascular system healthy. Cardiovascular exercise should be done every day (if possible) and for at least 150 minutes moderate activity or 75 minutes vigorous activity per week.