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Between 7-11 September is Women’s Health Week – a week dedicated to all women across Australia to make good health a priority.

Specifically, today’s agenda was all about raising awareness for cardiovascular health and why all women should take steps to look after their heart health.

Many people presume cardiovascular disease is an “old mans disease” but this assumption is very wrong. Women too and not just “older women” are susceptible to cardiovascular disease. This makes cardiovascular disease an important topic during Women’s Health Week.

Causes of cardiovascular disease include:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poor nutrition – high trans fat and saturated fat diet
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Social isolation and depression
  • Obesity

As you can see a lot of the above risk factors are dietary and lifestyle related and therefore within our control.

Knowledge is power so to enable you to take control of your health, here are 5 things women can do daily to help protect against cardiovascular disease.

Add a handful of raw nuts to your diet
Research has shown that eating 20g of nuts daily can cut peoples risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30%. Walnuts have one of the highest antioxidant content of all nuts and are a particularly good choice when it comes to heart health. The healthy fat, fibre and protein content of nuts also means they are incredibly satiating which can help women to maintain their weight. If you aren’t a fan of just snacking on nuts, try adding them to smoothies, in salads, in stir-frys or grind up and use as a sprinkle on muesli/oats.

Meditation is not only beneficial for mental wellbeing but can also help women to cultivate a sense of purpose and re centre thoughts and feelings. Additionally, it has been suggested that meditation can play a role in reducing risk of heart disease by improving heart function and changing our outlook on life, which in turn motivates us to make healthier choices. Meditating does not have to take up too much time or seem like a chore. In fact, only 10-15min per day is needed and I am confident all women can find this time in their day. If meditation is not for you, try deep breathing, sitting in nature or a relaxing yoga flow.

Enjoy blueberries a few times per week
Similar to raw nuts, blueberries are known to be protective against cardiovascular disease. This is because they offer a good source of anthocyanins, which exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities in the body. In terms of serving size, around ½ cup 3 or more times per week is necessary to gain the most benefit. Blueberries are also low calorie and low sugar but offer fibre so are a good way to get a sweet hit without having to add sugar to meals or snacks 

Swap red meat and processed meat for legumes a few times per week
Legumes such as chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans etc are super stars when it comes to heart health. Not only are they a greats source of fibre which aids the removal of cholesterol from our body and helps with lowering blood pressure, they are also low in unhealthy fat and contain an array of heart supportive vitamins, minerals and antioxidant compounds. Considering red meat and processed meat is high in saturated fats, too much of which is linked to cardiovascular disease, it can be incredibly beneficial to swap out meat for legumes a few times per week!

Add herbs and spices to meals
Antioxidant rich spices and herbs have been shown to reduce fats in the blood by 30% compared to eating the same meal without herbs/spices. This means spices are not just a fantastic way to flavour foods, but can also be used as a tool to protect against cardiovascular disease. Spices don’t have to be reserved for curries and slow cooked dishes, you can add spices to smoothies, oats, salad dressings, dips, roasted veggies, fruit salad, the list is endless!