Pies, snags on the BBQ, chips, lollies, alcohol and the stress of following your team are all part and parcel of this weekend's AFL and NRL grand final celebrations. But they might not be the best things for your heart.
World Heart Day is this Friday 29 September, and our experts at the Monash Victorian Heart Institute and the Victorian Heart Hospital have all the tips and tricks to keep your heart health in check while hearts around the nation will be put to the test.
And, regardless of your gender, don’t forget to get a heart health check!
Available to comment:
Dr Michael Houghton, Research Fellow in Molecular Nutrition, Monash University Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food and Victorian Heart Institute.
Contact details: +61 (0) 435 665 428, email@example.com, Twitter/X: @mjhoughton89
- Reduction in CVD and type 2 diabetes risk by diet, especially plant-derived components such as tea, coffee, cocoa and berries
- Regulation of blood glucose and blood vessel health by dietary components in relation to CVD and diabetes risk
- Effects of high-fat high-carbohydrate meals on disease risk factors
- Interaction and absorption of nutrients in the gut
- Nutrition strategies to manage exercise-induced stress and gut issues
The following can be attributed to Dr Houghton:
"Eating processed foods that are high in fat and refined carbohydrates can cause short-term stress on the body. Including these foods in your diet every day will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“Occasional inclusion is okay, so you should enjoy yourself this Grand Final weekend. Having said that, we have done a lot of research into the foods that may reverse this risk. Based on this, my tips would be to drink 3-4 cups of tea and/or coffee daily, have onions with your snags and try to snack on berries, nuts and dark chocolate instead of chips and lollies.
“For athletes, we have shown that exercising in the heat can cause gut issues, but consuming glucose or protein gels during exercise can reduce this."
Associate Professor Francine Marques, Head of the Hypertension Research Laboratory, Monash University School of Biological Sciences and Victorian Heart Institute.
- Heart health
- How high blood pressure works
- The importance of minimising stress
The following can be attributed to Associate Professor Marques:
“Stress is associated with higher blood pressure. The key recommendation related to stress is practicing mindfulness, yoga and deep breathing techniques. A good night of sleep prior to and following the game might be helpful too. A key aspect for better blood pressure control is to prioritise healthy habits, such as foods low in salt and high in fibre, when stress is unavoidable.
“In terms of heart healthy game-day snacks, these could include hummus and veggies or chickpeas, and unsalted nuts for added fibre and low salt.”
Dr Hui-Chen Han, Cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Victorian Heart Hospital and Victorian Heart Institute.
- palpitations and arrhythmias
- pre-syncope (feeling lightheaded) and syncope (fainting)
The following can be attributed to Dr Han:
"With two Grand Finals approaching, many people around the country will be having parties, celebrating (and some commiserating). As part of these activities, it is important to remember our own heart health.
Excess alcohol is known to cause certain cardiac conditions such as cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation and should be enjoyed occasionally and in moderation. Maintaining adequate water intake on the day is also vital to avoid dehydration and fainting, particularly as the weather will be warm.
"Even world class athletes can develop heart conditions. For example, some people are born with an extra electrical circuit in the heart. Under the right circumstances, this extra circuit activates and can cause palpitations and lightheadedness. In extreme instances, this can also lead to cardiac arrest. If you have palpitations, particularly recurrent or long-lasting episodes, it is important to have a check-up with your GP.
"I'd also encourage people to familiarise themselves with CPR and the use of an AED (automated external defibrillator). We've all seen video clips of elite sportspeople collapsing on the sporting field, and being resuscitated. If this occurs in a community event, it is up to us to provide potentially life-saving assistance."
Merran Blair. Lecturer, Monash University Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food.
Contact details: +61 (0) 3 9903 4840 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Available Tuesday 9-10am and 11.30-2pm, and Thursday 12-3pm
- Accredited Practising Dietitian
- Works with individuals to eat healthier
- Works with individuals have a better relationship with food
The following can be attributed to Ms Blair:
"We all want to enjoy our food, and eating socially during footy finals is all part of the fun. However, we might not feel so great after a full day of not-so-nutritious snack foods and pies.
“Try to take care of your body by including some nourishing options. If you are having a BBQ, try adding corn, onion and tomato, and have some salads to serve with your meats. You can also try lower fat kangaroo sausages as an option. If you are preparing snack foods, think about including a fruit platter and some veggie sticks along with your chips, crackers and dips.
“If you are out and having pies or hotdogs, try to make your next meal more balanced. Most importantly, try to pay attention to what you are eating. Do not just keep eating out of habit, make sure you are aware of what you are doing and actually enjoying your food. It is also a good idea to keep hydrated and keep alcohol intake to moderate levels. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with soda water or something similar."
Dr Barbara R Cardoso, Senior Lecturer, Monash University Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food and Victorian Heart Institute.
Contact details: +61 (0) 3 9903 4840, email@example.com
- Effects of diet on brain health (and risk of dementia)
- Effects of nut intake on disease risk factors (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes)
The following can be attributed to Dr Cardoso:
“Nuts are a fantastic and tasty heart healthy game-day snack: they have healthy fats, proteins and fibres that are good for your health. You can carry them in your pocket to the stadium or serve them along with cheese and seasonal fruits on a grazing platter.
“Mixing different types of nuts to carry them to the stadium will provide you with different nutrients for good health. A handful of nuts a day can protect your heart and your brain.”
Ms Shihoko Pearson, Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Clinical Lead, Victorian Heart Hospital
Contact details: +61 03 7511 1117, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Available Tuesday-Thursday this week
- Exercise tips for a healthy heart
The following can be attributed to:
“Whilst the National Physical Activity Guidelines and Australian Heart Foundation Exercise Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or 150 minutes per week, you can create some healthy habits to achieve this throughout your day such as using the stairs, walking to the shops if you are planning on buying lunch, having a walking meeting or exercising by your stand-up desk.
“It’s important to find activities that are important to you, those that you enjoy, and are at a level that is achievable for your fitness. A balanced lifestyle that factors in self-care, work and leisure will be varied for each individual, and weaving in a variety of exercises in your schedule will provide motivation. Exercise is a lifetime investment, so consider providing yourself with rewards along your journey.”
The following tips are from accredited practising dietitian with Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation Healthy Lifestyle Research Program Dr Sarah Lang.
Eight tips for heart-healthy snacking when watching the big game (that are minimal fuss)
1. Choose lower salt sauces
Regularly eating foods high in salt can lead to high blood pressure, which puts additional pressure on our heart. Swapping from regular to ‘reduce salt’ sauces and not adding extra salt to meals is an easy way to reduce salt intake. Try marinating meats with yoghurt or add extra herbs and spices to food for flavour.
2. Choose lean cuts of meat for the BBQ
Visible fat on meat and processed meats are a source of unhealthy fats which can impact our heart health. Try lean cuts of meat, such as BBQ chicken, fish or tofu. Slice and BBQ vegetables whilst you have the BBQ on.
3. Swap fried options for oven-baked
We add lots of unhealthy fat into food when we deep fry our snacks. Healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, are great for our heart health and to use in cooking. Spray food with olive oil or simply oven-bake to help reduce the extra unhealthy fat.
4. Avoid eating when distracted
When the match is exhilarating, we can often eat without tasting our food or realising how much we are eating. This can mean we eat more than our body needs without enjoying it. Put the food out before the match, eat, enjoy and then pack everything away to help you to eat mindfully.
5. Add vegetables and legumes
Vegetables and legumes are a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals and are important to include with both main meals and snacks. Eating more fibre (or roughage in food) can help reduce cholesterol levels. Mix up your platters with vegetable dips or vegetable sticks. Add lentils and grated vegetables into homemade sausage rolls or bolognese.
6. Choose wholegrain rolls and bread
Wholegrain breads and cereals are much higher in fibre compared to white bread. Eating additional fibre helps us to feel full, keeps our gut healthy, and regularly choosing foods high in fibre can also help lower cholesterol for a healthy heart. Hint: People won't notice the difference if you toast wholegrain bread.
7. Plenty of water and sugar-free mixers
Regular soft drinks are high in sugar, don’t offer much other nutritional value and can lead to us consuming more energy than we need. Choose sugar-free mixers instead (or, even better, choose water). Try to space out alcoholic drinks with water in between each drink.
8. Get outside - dust off your football and make the most of the game at home
One of the best things we can do to keep our heart healthy is to get our body moving. Making the most of the game and getting outside can help to reduce the time we spend sitting and will help us to work towards our target of 150 minutes activity each week.
Credit: Dr Sarah Lang, of the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation Healthy Lifestyle Research Program
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