Heart and circulatory diseases are among the biggest killers in the UK, accounting for around a quarter of all deaths.
Of these, coronary heart disease is the most common type.
It can be caused by a number of factors including diet and lifestyle.
Eating certain types of food in excess, for example, leads to a build-up of cholesterol in the blood which in time can result in dangerous blockages.
Shona Wilkinson, lead nutritionist at supplement brand Dr. Vegans, which shared foods should be avoided to lower your risk of heart disease.
She said: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization.
“High levels of cholesterol is one of the main risk factors in the development of coronary heart disease.
“Despite this, statistics from NHS England reveal that more than two in five people have high cholesterol and around 6.5 million adults are currently taking lipid-lowering drugs.
“The statistics are alarming, but there are a number of things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease, and eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the most important.
“Indeed, more than two-thirds of heart disease-related deaths around the world could have been prevented with the correct nutrition.”
Foods to avoid
Ms Wilkinson explained: “A heart-healthy diet begins with eliminating foods high in cholesterol, which if consumed in large quantities, is stored in the arteries where it starts to narrow the passage of blood and places strain on the heart.
“Prime examples of these foods include fried foods such as chips, processed foods including cakes and biscuits, butter, cream, and hard cheese.
“There are many more so always check the label.”
These foods are also high in saturated fat, which is known to raise cholesterol levels.
Other foods high in saturated fat include:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Processed meat, including sausages and pies
- Some savory snacks, like cheese crackers and some popcorns
- Chocolate confectionery
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil and coconut cream.
“There is also a lot of evidence that choosing oils high in unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats like olive oil, rapeseed and sunflower oils, can support a healthy heart by reducing cholesterol and cardiovascular risk,” Ms Wilkinson said.
Foods to eat
She recommended adding foods high in fiber and antioxidants to the diet to lower cholesterol.
“Fibre is an essential part of a heart-healthy diet due to its absorption of some dietary cholesterol,” she said.
“Fibre also feeds good bacteria, some of which metabolize cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed.
“Great fiber-rich foods include beans, lentils, broccoli, whole grains, apples, berries and dried fruit.
“A simple tip to increase your fiber intake is to add one more vegetable to your evening meal.
“Antioxidants are also essential when it comes to heart health as they prevent cholesterol in the arteries from oxidising.
“It is oxidized cholesterol that becomes hard, causing stiff arteries which can lead to heart disease.
“Blueberries are often cited as the best antioxidant food, but nearly all berries are great for increasing your intake of naturally occurring antioxidants.
“Fruits, vegetables and legumes are all excellent sources of antioxidants.”