Part 2. How can I reduce my Blood Pressure?

In the first part of this two part series on blood pressure we discussed what blood pressure is, it’s causes and how you can identify high blood pressure. In this article we will discuss what you can do to reduce your blood pressure.

How can I reduce my Blood Pressure?

Everyone can benefit from taking measures to lower blood pressure. Even if you have a healthy blood pressure you can still take steps to ensure it remains healthy. The following lifestyle modifications can help significantly lower your blood pressure:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Increase fruit and vegetables
  • Become more physically active
  • Try to manage stress

1. Maintain a healthy weight

It is well researched that being overweight can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure. Maintaining a well balanced diet can considerably reduce your blood pressure. Losing as little as 10% of excess weight can lower blood pressure.

Being overweight is also a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.

Consult with your GP/Nurse to set realistic achievable goals for weight reduction.

10% weight reduction can lower your BP by 10-20mmHg.

2. Stop Smoking

If you smoke, stop! Smoking is another major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Once you quit, your risk of having a heart attack will be halved within two years. There are lots of different methods to help make quitting easier. Consult with your GP/Nurse to see what is suitable for you.

3. Reduce your salt intake

If everyone in Ireland reduced salt intake by half a teaspoon (2.4 grams per day), this could prevent approximately 900 deaths each year from stroke and heart disease.

People in Ireland take too much salt and this is directly linked to high blood pressure. It is the sodium in salt that affects blood pressure.

Tips for cutting down on your salt intake

  • Do not add salt to your food at the table.
  • Avoid adding salt to food while cooking.
  • Cut down on processed foods that are generally high in salt.
  • Try flavouring your foods with pepper, spices or herbs as alternatives to salt.
  • Sea salt, rock salt, garlic salt and table salt all have the same sodium content.

4. Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables

High blood pressure can be reduced by following a healthy eating plan that is high in fruit and vegetables. Adults should eat at least 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables every day. Buy lots of fruit and vegetables in a variety of colours. Fruits and vegetables have been significantly proven to help prevent diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

5. Drink alcohol in moderation

Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with high blood pressure. It can harm the liver, brain and heart. Many people find that their blood pressure improves when they decrease their alcohol consumption. Alcohol is measured in units. The recommendations for both men and women are shown below.

  • Men Maximum 17 units over 7 days
  • Women Maximum 11 units over 7 days

1 UNIT OF ALCOHOL:

  • ½ pint of beer
  • a small glass of wine (100ml)
  • 1 pub measure of spirits

6. Become more physically active

Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure. It also helps to reduce your overall risk of heart disease. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. One way of achieving this is a 30 minute brisk walk 5 days per week.

Tips for being more active:

  • Use the stairs instead of an elevator.
  • Get off the bus one or two stops earlier.
  • Park your car at the far end of the car park.
  • Remember any activity that leaves you warm and slightly out of breath is good

7. Try to manage your stress

Anxiety and stress may raise your blood pressure in the short term. This is a normal response and healthy blood vessels can cope with these changes. However, if your blood pressure is raised for long periods of time due to stress, this will eventually damage the walls of your arteries.

Try to develop methods of coping with stress that you can practice anywhere, a way of “switching off” for 5-10 minutes. Relaxation exercises can help to release brain chemicals that act as your body’s natural brain tranquilizers, helping to lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels.

Part 1. Blood Pressure and your body

Blood Pressure and your body

High blood pressure has many harmful effects on the body. It increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

By taking control of your blood pressure you can make a positive step towards reducing your overall risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Ireland has one of the highest incidence rates of Stroke and Coronary Artery Disease in Europe, with six in ten of all Irish adults having high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause silent damage to the blood vessels and the heart. If left untreated the damage may progress and result in a stroke or a heart attack.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries when the heart contracts. Everyone has blood pressure. While a certain amount of pressure is needed to keep the blood flowing, this pressure can increase if the blood meets resistance in the arteries. Blood flowing through the arteries at high pressure can damage artery walls. If this pressure is persistently high, this is called high blood pressure or “hypertension”.

High blood pressure is a sign that the heart and blood vessels are being overworked.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers

  • The “systolic” pressure is the pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart is beating.
  • The “diastolic” pressure is the pressure present in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure is expressed as the systolic pressure “over” the diastolic pressure. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 is expressed as “120 over 80”.

How do I know if I have High Blood Pressure?

A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high blood pressure. You may not know you have high blood pressure, as usually there are no warning signs or symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high, is to have it checked. Therefore, it is very important to have your blood pressure checked once a year

Initial assessment:

  • Having your blood pressure measured is quick and easy, and can be done by your doctor or nurse.
  • Blood pressure is measured using a special instrument called a sphygmomanometer. This involves a cuff being wrapped around your arm just above the elbow, which is then inflated. Automatic blood pressure monitors are commonly used. In these cases the blood pressure reading appears on a small screen.
  • Blood pressure is just one of the risk factors for heart disease or stroke, therefore your doctor may decide to do some extra blood and urine tests to identify other risk factors that you may have.

Repeat assessment:

Most doctors will diagnose a person with high blood pressure on the basis of a number of readings. However sometimes your GP may recommend 24 hour blood pressure monitoring. If so:

  • This monitor must be worn for 24 hours and will inflate and check your blood pressure every half hour.
  • Your blood pressure will vary at different times of the day depending on your activity levels, therefore it is important to carry out your normal daily activities while wearing the monitor.
  • This method of blood pressure monitoring is particularly good for patients who only experience high blood pressure when they visit the doctor’s surgery. This is called “white coat hypertension”. Blood pressure can rise when a person is nervous or anxious

Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home

Many people also like to monitor their blood pressure themselves using a home blood pressure monitor. The British & Irish Hypertension Society publishes the only independent, validated blood pressure monitors for home use, not governed by commercial interest. For a full list of validated blood pressure monitors, click here, or here is Croí’s short-list of recommended blood pressure monitors:

  • A&D UA-705: Upper Arm
  • A&D UA-704: Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Compact (HEM-7102-E): Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Basic (HEM-7116-E) (Derivative of M3-I (HEM-7051-E)): Upper Arm
  • Omron M7 (HEM-780-E): Upper Arm

What causes High Blood Pressure?

In the majority of people there is no single clear cause of high blood pressure. However, there are a number of factors that contribute to high blood pressure. These include:

  • Family history of high blood pressure.
  • Age (as you grow older, blood pressure tends to rise).
  • Being overweight.
  • A high intake of sodium (salt) in the diet.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • A high intake of alcohol.
  • Ethnic Origin: people from African-Caribbean and South Asian communities have a higher predisposition to developing high blood pressure.

In the remainder of people who don’t fit into the above category, high blood pressure can arise as a result of other diseases such as a kidney disease, disorders of the adrenal gland etc.

What should my Blood Pressure be?

It is very important to know the recommended target level for blood pressure.

Target Level Less than 140/90 mmHg*

If you have Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney Disease, or if you have had a Stroke your doctor may prescribe a lower target level.

Advice for people managing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) at home

It is not clear why people with high blood pressure are at a higher risk of developing complications if they contract COVID-19, so it is important to follow all the recommended advice on staying safe and take any heart medication your doctor has prescribed.

You have high blood pressure when your blood pressure readings are more than 140 over 90 consistently over several readings. When on treatment for high blood pressure the target for most people is to have a blood pressure below 130/80mmHg particularly if you have had a cardiac event or stroke; have other risk factors; or have diabetes.

High blood pressure is very common in Ireland and by taking control of your blood pressure you can make a positive step towards reducing your overall risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You can do this following the medical advice you are given by your doctor, having regular check-ups, taking your medication as prescribed and making positive lifestyle changes.

Many people also like to monitor their blood pressure themselves using a home blood pressure monitor. The British & Irish Hypertension Society publishes the only independent, validated blood pressure monitors for home use, not governed by commercial interest. For a full list of validated blood pressure monitors, click here, or here is Croí’s short-list of recommended blood pressure monitors:

  • A&D UA-705: Upper Arm
  • A&D UA-704: Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Compact (HEM-7102-E): Upper Arm
  • Omron M2 Basic (HEM-7116-E) (Derivative of M3-I (HEM-7051-E)): Upper Arm
  • Omron M7 (HEM-780-E): Upper Arm

The following video outlines how to measure your blood pressure using a validated monitor to ensure it is recorded accurately.

For more information on High Blood Pressure, click here.

2021 FAQ Croí Corrib Cycle

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What is the Croí Corrib Cycle?

The 2021 Croí Corrib Cycle is a fundraising event for Croí that will take place on Sunday July 11th. There are three routes on offer, 40km, 80km and 110km. Both routes start and finish at Peacockes in Maam Cross, Galway. (Google Map link) Registration is available here.

How should I fundraise?

We encourage cyclists to use iDonate to fundraise for this cycle in aid of Croí. Once you register for the cycle, you will receive a confirmation email which will then allow you to create your iDonate profile. This is a fundraising event and we are so grateful for all the support which helps us to continue our vital work in communities throughout the region.

If you have any queries in relation to this please contact lisa.croi@hse.ie. or contact us on 091 544310.

How much do I need to raise?

To confirm your place in the cycle, you must donate or fundraise at least €150 by June 18th.

When do I give my donation?

All donations and fundraising will be completed online, in advance of the cycle. There will be no money collected on the day.

What time does the event start?

The first group will leave Peacockes at 8am. You will be emailed details of your start time in advance of the event. You will also receive your wristband and face covering via post in advance of the event. Both items must be worn by all participants when they arrive at the start line. At check-in you can collect your jersey and water bottle.

  • Both routes start and finish at Peacockes, Maam Cross, Galway (Google Maps link ).

Please leave plenty of time to get to the event check-in as there will be a lot of traffic in the area.

When do I get my jersey and water bottle?

Jerseys and water bottles can be collected on the day at the cycle at Peacockes. Everybody who raises at least €150 will receive a Croí Corrib Cycle jersey, water bottle. You will receive a Croí face covering and wristband via post in advance of the cycle.

Can I get a refund?

There are no refunds – donations and fundraising is viewed as a charitable donation.

Will there be bike repair on the routes?

Please ensure your bike is checked before departure. Pump your wheels and ensure you have spare tubes for your wheels. Bike mechanics are available on the routes.

Where can I park my car?

There will be adequate parking in place at Peacockes. Please allow extra time to get parking and event registration. It will be busy. Please do not park illegally.

Where do the routes go?

40KM Route Map

Cyclists will depart from Maam Cross, heading northwest towards Leenaun and turning back again towards Maam Cross. 40KM google map.

80KM Route Map

Cyclists will depart from Maam Cross, heading Northwest, towards Leenaun and turning right where you will cycle along Loch na Fooey, towards Finny. You will then continue onto Clonbur and turn back towards Cornamona (before Cong) and finish at Maam Cross. Click the link to see the route. 80KM google map.

110KM Route Map

Cyclists will depart from Maam Cross and head Northwest to Leenaun, then turning right and taking you over ‘Lally’s’. From there you will descend into Toormakeady, travelling down Maumtrasna (looking out on Lough Mask) towards Finny and cycling along Lough na Fooey. You will continue on to Clonbur and turn back towards Cornamona (before Cong) and finish at Maam Cross. Click the link to see the route. 110KM google map

Do rules of the road apply?

YES.  This is not a closed road event and you must adhere to the normal rules of the road.

  • Cycling on the route is maximum of two abreast.
  • The event is not a race and you are responsible for your own safety and the safety of others on the road.
  • Croí directional signs will be placed along the route and marshals will also be present. Please remember, marshals are only there to assist. You must check for oncoming traffic at all junctions.
  • All participants will be provided with an emergency contact number in the case of an emergency on the route. Please note, this is not a number for bike repairs.
  • Please ensure you have spare tubes in the event of a puncture and do not rely on the emergency number for help with changing punctures etc.
  • No earphones permitted.

What happens after the event?

There will be hot food, tea and coffee available for all participants. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, large groups of people will not be permitted to congregate at the finish line. We ask all people to act responsibly and respect others’ personal space.

Are there showers at the finish line?

No showers are available.

Are there toilets on the routes?

No additional toilets on route. Due to COVID-19, toilets in petrol stations may not be available. Toilets will be available at Peacockes.

What if I need first aid?

Irish Red Cross ambulances will be on all routes. Should you require assistance, please call emergency number on your final confirmation email. In case of an emergency, dial 999 for ambulance and then call emergency event number.

Do I need to bring anything with me?

Yes, bring the following:

  • Helmet
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Puncture repair kit and spare tubes
  • Mobile Phone with credit
  • Snacks
  • Sunblock
  • Rain jacket
  • Emergency money and ID

Are the routes well sign-posted?

Yes, there will be Croí directional signage on all routes, including marshals to support you. Remember rules of the road apply.

Is the jersey unisex?

Yes, and typically the jerseys are tight fitting.

Anything else?

Yes, please respect the volunteers, marshals and medics on the route they are there for your safety. Please bring your rubbish with you to the next refreshment stop if snacking on the route.

Enjoy the ride!

For any additional information please contact Christine on 091 544310 or email christine.croi@hse.ie

National Workplace Wellbeing Day!

Friday, April 30th, is National Workplace Wellbeing Day!

The last year has brought about a massive change to everyday working life, but Team Croí aims to stay connected and active throughout the day.

It can be hard to see opportunities for healthy activities during the busy workday. Lisa, Croí’s Head of Health Programmes, has provided 3 top tips to boost your heart health, sense of wellbeing and your productivity this Workplace Wellbeing Day: Hydrate, Move & Connect!

 

  1. Hydrate! We all know that it’s important to drink plenty of water – about eight 200ml glasses a day for women and ten 200ml glasses a day for men. Drinking enough water plays a role in many processes in the body, including digestion, and when we are dehydrated our energy levels and focus can be impacted. Drinking water also helps to manage our appetite as we can confuse thirst for hunger at times. Fitting more water breaks into your work day also offers an opportunity to get a break from your screen and take a breath! Can you fit just one more glass of water into your day?
  2. Move! There are so many benefits to moving more during your work day! We are not suggesting that you run a quick 5km at lunch time – reducing sitting time by getting up and stretching regularly, standing for a couple of meetings, having a three minute dance party as you heat up your lunch, it all counts as physical activity! Moving around is also an effective way to shake out stress and tension during a busy workday – bringing us back to the dance party idea! Can you set an alarm to remind you to get up and move around a couple more times a day?
  3. Connect! This has been a year of both great disconnection and a whole new kind of connection. We haven’t seen many of our family or friends, but many of us have been on countless Zoom calls with all corners of the world! Humans are social creatures, and when it’s harder or impossible for many of us to connect in the tea room, or meet for a coffee these days, it’s extra important to figure out how we can meet our connection needs. Having strong social connections has a major impact on our psychological wellbeing and has also been linked with better physical health! Whether it’s a walk at lunch time, a non-work Zoom coffee, or a couple of voice notes, try to fit in time to connect with people during your work day to share a problem or a worry, support someone else, or just to have a laugh!

 

Check out our recent Instagram Reel of some members of Team Croí incorporating these activities into their workday! Follow us on Instagram – @croiheartstroke.

Dr. Lisa Hynes - Head of Health Programmes

Croí Connects – Your questions answered

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Welcome to Croí’s weekly Q&A series, Croí Connects

Through this new series, Croí will connect with medical experts each week for a questions and answers session to help answer your questions on heart disease, stroke, COVID-19 and lots more. Our Croí Connects video series will be shared here and on our Facebook page.

Each month we will announce our upcoming guest expert on Croí Connects. You are invited to submit your questions the week in advance. Your questions can be submitted using the form below, or you can call Croí on 091-544310.

Stay tuned for our next Croí Connects!

Croí Connects: Weight Bias and Obesity Stigma

Croí Connects: Sleep Management

Croí Connects: Stress Management

Croí Connects: World Heart Day Special

Croí Connects: Heart Valve Disease

Croí Connects: Obesity

Croí Connects: Diabetes

Croi Connects: Heart Attack & CPR

Croí Connects: Mayo Farmers Month Special

Croí Connects: World Stroke Day Special

Croí Connects: ICD

Croí Connects: Physical Activity

Croí Connects: Heart Failure

Croí Connects: Stroke

Croí Connects: Diet & Nutrition

Croí Connects: Heart Disease

Energy Ball Snacks to Fuel You on the Couch to Wild Atlantic Way Challenge

Croí’s Dietitian, Aisling, has designed the perfect recipe for Energy Ball Bites! These tasty and healthy treats are the perfect little snack to give you a quick but light energy boost. Try them out and, if you’re doing Croí’s Couch to Wild Atlantic Way challenge, pack them up and bring them with you for a mid-walk snack!

The natural sugars from the dates provide energy and sweetness, while the healthy fats and protein in the nuts satisfy that peckish feeling. However, because they are small, they are a perfect pre-workout snack as they won’t fill you up too much but will give you an energy boost for your session.

There are so many varieties and flavour combinations from chocolate, orange zest, coconut or peanut butter, but the basic ingredients of dates and nuts always remains the same so, once you’ve made these yourself once or twice, don’t be afraid to get experimenting!

Croí Energy Balls – Basic Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 100g medjool dates (or regular dried dates pre-soaked in water)
  • 50g nuts (I used hazelnuts but you could also use almonds or Brazil nuts)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder, plus extra for coating
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey

Method:

  1. Blend the nuts finely.
  2. Add in the dates and blend again until completely mixed. You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times to make sure everything gets blended.
  3. Add in the chia seeds, cocoa powder and honey and blend again.
  4. Take out tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls.
  5. Coat in some cocoa powder

Make a healthier pancake this Shrove Tuesday!

Heart Healthy Pancakes!

This Tuesday, the frying pans won’t know what hit them with all the pancakes that will be made! Although a popular and tasty treat, pancakes and the toppings that come with them are often high in sugar and saturated fats.

This year, why not opt for the healthy choice and try Croí’s heart healthy pancakes, featuring soaked oats and banana. These delicious pancakes are full of heart-friendly ingredients, with the same great taste as traditional pancakes – the kids won’t even know the difference. Croí’s Lead Dietitian has also suggested some healthy toppings that just taste like more! Check out the ingredient list here and follow along with the video above for the method:

Ingredients: 

  • 150g soaked porridge oats
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 large, free-range eggs
  • 100ml skimmed milk
  • 2 tsp rapeseed oil

Suggested toppings:

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower & Pumpkin seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Low-fat yogurt

Learn about the ingredients in the pancakes and the benefits they have for you!

Valentine’s Day Meal Ideas

Just because we can’t eat out this Valentine’s Day, does not mean we can’t make it special at home! Our Croí Dietitian, Aisling, has gathered some quick, delicious and heart healthy recipes for you to try on Valentine’s Day, next Sunday, February 14th!

Starter:

Begin your meal with a simple bruschetta. Easy to prepare but packed with flavour. Tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion and basil are staple foods in the heart healthy, Mediterranean diet. Onion and garlic are known as ‘prebiotics’ and they promote healthy gut bacteria. Try this simple Tomato Bruschetta Recipe.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try this Lemony Prawn Bruschetta?

Main Course:

Oily fish, such as salmon, are a great source of the heart healthy, fatty acids, so, what could be better to have as a main course on Valentine’s Day! Give this Sautéed Salmon with Citrus Salsa a try!

If you’re looking to spice things up this Valentine’s Day, why not try these Tomato and Chilli Mussels. Mussels are a good source of protein, fatty acids and contain a range of vitamins and minerals.

With the recent cold snap, if you’re looking for something more heart warming, try a Chicken Madras. The mix of herbs and spices, combined with a tomato base, makes this a very tasty and low saturated fat meal to warm you up!

If your idea of Valentine’s Day involves spending the minimal amount of time in the kitchen, then why not try this Spanish Style Chicken Stew. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare, and 25 minutes to simmer. How you spend that time is up to you…

Dessert:

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, so why not go all out with these mouth-watering Chocolate Molten Cakes? Dark chocolate has been shown to have some health benefits and is lower in fat and sugar than milk chocolate.

For something a bit lighter, try these mini Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Pavlovas. Or, keep things simple with the classic, some Chocolate Dipped Strawberries.

Bring the restaurant experience to the comfort of your own home with these delicious dishes! Put on some nice clothes (or your pyjamas and slippers, if that’s what you prefer), light some candles, and tuck in and enjoy your lockdown Valentine’s dinner date!

Cholesterol: What is it and how can I manage it?

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is essential for your body to function day to day. A certain amount of cholesterol is healthy, as it forms part of the cell walls and is also necessary to make hormones.

What are the Different Types of Cholesterol?

There are two main types of cholesterol – LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is beneficial to the body. However, if there is too much LDL cholesterol, it can be deposited along the walls of arteries, forming atheroma (fatty material) and causing blood vessels to become narrowed or blocked. Over time, a gradual build-up of atheroma can narrow the arteries that supply the heart with blood. This process is called atherosclerosis and may eventually cause symptoms of angina or result in a heart attack or stroke. One cause of high LDL cholesterol is a diet high in saturated fat.

What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be?

  • Total cholesterol: Less than 5.0mmol/L
  • LDL cholesterol: Less than 3.0mmol/L
  • HDL cholesterol: More than 1mmol/L for men and more than 1.2mml/L for women
  • Triglycerides: Less than 1.7mmol/L

If you have a history of heart disease, stroke or diabetes or, you are at high risk because of multiple risk factors, then your target levels for LDL cholesterol are lower:

  • LDL cholesterol: 1.4-2.5mmol/L

Your cholesterol can be high for a number of reasons. High cholesterol can be genetic or due to an under-active thyroid, but in most cases, high cholesterol is due to eating too much saturated fat. Following a healthy diet and reducing saturated fat is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol.

Click to Download our Cholesterol Booklet

Fat in Foods

A small portion of fat is needed in our diet, but fat is considered to be less healthy than other nutrients as it can raise our blood cholesterol, increase our risk to heart disease and is high in calories, which can lead to weight gain. Some fats are healthier than others. There are three main types of fat in food: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat can increase our ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats is an important dietary change to reduce cholesterol levels. You should avoid saturated fats wherever possible as these can raise your blood cholesterol level.

The Different Types of Fat

1. Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products such as fatty meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, coconut oil as well as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and many processed foods.

Low-fat options have less saturated fat.

2. Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fats should be used in moderation.

Using this type of fat may help reduce cholesterol levels.

It is found in oils, such as olive oil and rapeseed oil, olive oil based spreads as well as nuts and seeds.

3. Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fats should be used in moderation.

Using this type of fat may help reduce cholesterol levels.

It is found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, nuts and seeds, polyunsaturated spreads, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and herring.

Note: All types of fat are high in calories and can lead to weight gain.

Tips to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

  • If you are overweight, aim for 1-2 pounds weight loss per week.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be broken down into 30 minutes on 5 days per week, or bouts of 10 minutes accumulated over the day.
  • Choose wholegrain varieties of cereal, bread, rice and pasta.
  • Aim for 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Limit red meat to maximum three times per week. Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, veal and venison and ham. 1 portion of red meat should be no bigger than the palm of your hand. Make sure the red meat is lean and well-trimmed of visible fat.
  • Replace red meat with chicken, turkey, fish, eggs or beans.
  • Choose fish twice per week, with at least one day being oily. Examples of oily fish include sardines, mackerel, trout, herring or salmon. These foods are high in omega 3 oils which are good for your heart.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products e.g. low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese. Remember low fat dairy has the same amount of calcium as full-fat dairy. Focus on getting your calcium from low-fat milk and yoghurts, as opposed to cheese.
  • Limit cheese to less than two matchstick box size of cheese (approx. 30g) per week.
  • Eat no more than 4-6 eggs per week.
  • Choose healthier cooking methods – bake, boil, poach or grill food rather than fry.
  • Choose heart healthy oils when cooking e.g. rapeseed oil and use sparingly.
  • Choose a low-fat polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread and spread it thinly.
  • Limit foods and drinks high in fat, sugar or salt (crisps, biscuits, chocolate, soft drinks).
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation by keeping within the recommended weekly limits, which are 17 units for men and 11 units for women. Excessive alcohol can increase a type of cholesterol called triglycerides. Alcohol intake should be spread out over the week, aiming for at least two alcohol-free days per week. One standard unit of alcohol is:

– One-half pint of beer, stout or lager

– A small glass of wine (100mls)

– One Irish pub measure of spirits

If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Croí Health Team on 091-544310 or email healthteam@croi.ie.