Stress is killing us—literally. Cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and anxiety are just some of the health problems associated with stress—with heart disease the leading cause of death among men.
What you eat matters
A poor diet is one of the leading risk factors for developing heart disease in men. Eating a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight, blood pressure, and healthy cholesterol levels, also reducing your risk of diabetes.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Enjoy a wide variety of foods from all the different food groups, focusing on fresh, unprocessed produce.
Here are a few basic principles for healthy eating.
Top tips for managing stress with diet
- Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits and whole grains: Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, these everyday staples protect your heart. Food’s high in fibre also help to keep you full and may help lower cholesterol.
- Include a variety of lean protein and low-fat dairy/dairy alternatives: Choose lean sources of protein and limit red meat to 1-2 times a week. Eat more fish—up to three times a week and include plant-based proteins like beans, chickpeas and lentils. Make sure you include dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese for calcium, protein and other minerals. If you have high cholesterol or are trying to manage your weight, go for low-fat varieties.
- Limit added sugars, salt and saturated fats: Limit discretionary and processed foods including take-away, baked goods, chocolates, chips, sugary drinks etc., as these are high in saturated fat and energy (kJ) and low in nutrients.
- <Include healthy fats: Healthy unsaturated fats, including avocados, fish, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils (e.g. olive, canola, sunflower), can help lower cholesterol.
- Watch your portion sizes: Controlling portion sizes and total energy (kJ) intake is important for maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for your main meals to be made up of ½ vegetables, ¼ carbohydrates, and ¼ protein.
Meal planning for stress management and a healthy heart
Taking care of your heart doesn’t have to cause you more stress or blow your budget! Here’s a simple example of how to pull our top tips together!
2 Slices of Wholegrain toast + 1 chopped tomato, red onion, herbs + ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or 2 tsp margarine
½ cup rolled oats + 1 cup low-fat or skim milk + 1 tsp chia seeds
tea or coffee + water
1 orange or 2 small mandarins + 30g Walnuts or almonds (unsalted)
1 cup legumes + 1 small can tuna in water or olive oil (drained) + 1 cup mixed salad vegetables
2 Slices wholegrain bread + Omelette (2 eggs) + 1 cup side salad
tea or coffee + water
¾ cup Low fat plain yoghurt + ½ cup mixed berries
1 cup couscous or ½ medium potato + 1 fillet (~100 – 150g) grilled or baked salmon + 1 cup steamed/baked vegetables.
1 cup of cooked basmati rice + Tofu stir fry with mixed vegetables + olive oil
2 small Kiwifruit or 1 apple or 1 banana
Top tips for managing stress with exercise
Staying active is crucial to optimising not only your physical health but also your mental health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It assists in maintaining a healthy weight and lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease while helping to lessen the effects of anxiety and depression.
Exercise can help take your mind off daily stresses, reduce tension and boost energy. Running or walking with friends is also a great way to lower your stress—social connection is important!
Here are some of the Australia Government guidelines for staying active.
- Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build-up to the recommended amount.
- Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
- Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity (activities that increase heart rate without making you breathless) physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous-intensity (activities that make you “huff and puff”) physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
Make friends with rest
In addition to having a healthy diet and exercising, taking time to rest and relax is equally as important. Having a good work-life balance is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Prolonged stress takes a toll on your body, so prioritising mental health and setting aside time to relax, wind down, and rest helps to prevent burnout. Activities that encourage rest include sleep, meditation/mindfulness practices or socialising with friends and family.
Balance is best and easier than you think. We’re here to help.
Make an appointment with our Accredited Practising Dietitians
and let us take the stress out of looking after your heart.