Your health is important, especially your heart health. Poor heart health can lead to a number of conditions including heart disease, increased risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes as well as other conditions. Nearly 7 million people in the UK battle heart and cardiovascular disease on a daily basis, yet it can be preventable with the right diet and lifestyle. In Greece meanwhile, those who live in isolated villages lead long, healthy lives. Could their secrets be the key to a healthier lifestyle?
Heart Health – The Greek Way
The Greeks eat lots of animal fats, cheese and other things you’d think would contribute to cardiovascular disease, yet the residents of Mylopotamos, located in northern Crete are known for living a long healthy life. Not only that, but heart disease and related illnesses are rare. How is this possible?
Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute believe it is down to their genetic make-up, which may protect their hearts from bad fats and cholesterol, which is unique to their village. However, with Mediterraneans across Europe being known for their healthier lifestyle, there is still a lot that can be learned from the Greeks.
Not only do they eat a diet that is lower in saturated fat than we do in the UK, but they spend more time outdoors which ensures a high level of daily activity, as well as exposure to vitamin D. Whilst we may not always be blessed with the weather here in the UK, there are things you can do to ensure you get out more and make the most of the sunshine we do get.
How to enjoy a Mediterranean lifestyle in the UK
Some simple lifestyle changes can help you live a healthier lifestyle in the UK. These include:
- Switching processed foods for ones that are natural – fruit, vegetables, lean meats and wholegrains. Prepare meals as a family and use it as a way to spend time together rather than relying on the microwave or local takeaway.
- Eating more oily fish. Mediterranean diets are rich in fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Fish can boost your intake of Omega-3 which not only helps your heart health but helps babies to develop in the womb.
- Lowering your alcohol intake and quitting smoking – both of these lifestyle choices contribute to serious diseases which can affect your immediate and long-term health.
- Exercising and making the effort to walk more – Mediterraneans will spend a large portion of their day outside so try and get out when you can. Walking instead of driving or public transport is a good cardiovascular exercise which will also expose you to Vitamin D.
- Don’t feel like you have to avoid carbohydrates. Starchy carbohydrates such as bread and pasta, particularly wholegrains, can help you to feel fuller and stop you snacking on unhealthy foods whilst helping your digestion too.
- Swapping vegetable and sunflower oil for olive or rapeseed oil and using spreads which also contain these, have many health benefits over typical cooking oils.
- Starting the day with a healthier breakfast, avoiding processed, sugary cereals and opting for oats, fruit or eggs instead.
You can find out more about healthier living for a healthy heart with NHS Choices. Remember that any chest pain or discomfort you experience could be serious and it’s important to get checked out by your doctor. Any sudden pain should be treated immediately so make sure you get medical attention.
Our services are here if you need us out of hours, provided your surgery is on this list. If your health is suffering or you’re overweight and you’d like some advice on maintaining a healthy diet, book an appointment with your GP for advice.