Why breakfast with a friend could be just what the doctor ordered.
Spending too much time alone and regularly skipping breakfast might be pushing you closer to heart disease, warns the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
In Week Five of the Go Red for Women Healthy Heart Challenge the Heart Foundation is encouraging women to regularly take time to do things they enjoy with family and friends and not to skip breakfast.
The Healthy Heart Challenge aims to encourage women to be proactive about developing a healthier lifestyle to help beat heart disease the number one killer of Australian women.
The free 10 week Challenge shows women that small, realistic steps can make significant changes, which if adopted permanently, will make a big difference to their heart health, said Mr Thirlwell, CEO Heart Foundation NSW.
There is enough evidence to show that being isolated or depressed and regularly skipping breakfast could increase your risk of heart disease, so encouraging women of all ages to get together with friends, family or colleagues over breakfast might just be what the doctor ordered.
Of course, we would also love to see you make healthier breakfast choices too. Skinny milk in your tea and coffee; poached eggs rather than scrambled or fried; wholegrain toast and with margarine rather than butter; and pass on the bacon and try roast tomatoes instead, said Mr Thirlwell.
Recent research part-funded by the Heart Foundation showed that people who skipped breakfast as adults and as children had an average waist measurement almost 5cm larger, higher insulin levels and higher cholesterol levels than those who ate breakfast each of these being risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
We also know that being depressed and socially isolated in the community is an independent risk factor for heart disease, so it s timely to remind people about the importance of regular contact with family, friends and even the people at your local shops, said Mr Thirlwell
For more information about the Go Red for Women campaign or the Healthy Heart Challenge please visit www.goredforwomen.org.au or call 1300 36 27 87.
Julie-Anne Mitchell is the Cardiovascular Health Director and Chair of the Go Red for Women committee.
Question: What is the Go Red for Women Healthy Heart Challenge?
Julie-Anne Mitchell: Go Red for Women Healthy Heart Challenge was a ten week, free online challenge to provide woman with practical, everyday tips on how they could improve one aspect of their lifestyle. What we encouraged woman to do was to choose one goal out of six; either to improve their everyday physical activity, everyday nutrition, quit smoking or improve their knowledge of heart health because a lot of woman don't really understand what heart disease actually is. If a woman had been diagnosed with high cholesterol or high blood pressure we also encouraged tips and strategies they could use to reduce their blood pressure or cholesterol. The focus was to choose one goal and then under each goal there was about ten actions people could choose and we recommended that people chose two or three to implement into their lifestyle for the ten weeks, of the challenge.
As an example I chose to improve my everyday nutrition and I agreed to do three things from the list of options under nutrition; one was to bring my lunch to work four days a week (which was a real challenge for me because I don't like cooking, I hate leftovers and it was a challenge to get up five minutes earlier to make my own lunch) the second was to trial cooking three Heart Foundation tick approved recipes a week and the third was to increase my intake of fish. I am not a big fish eater and I tried to think of different ways to add more fish into my diet.
I struggled along the way but I have been pretty persistent with taking my lunch to work – I have really focused on that because I used to run out at lunchtime and buy the nearest thing. Not only have I noticed the saving, it has made me a little more disciplined about eating lunch at lunchtime and not at three o'clock in the afternoon. It has also made me think about how I can include more fish into my diet not just by eating a slab of fish but by adding tuna to pasta or fish cakes.
Question: How does spending too much time alone push you closer to heart disease?
Julie-Anne Mitchell: There are a range of risk factors that increase any persons risk of heart disease and some of those are lifestyle and some are clinical. Some of the lifestyle factors are physical inactivity, poor diet and social isolation can be a risk factor. We know that if people are depressed then there are certain hormones that are released in the body that can increase heart rate, blood pressure and it can also increase the likelihood of blood clotting in the body. The release of those stress hormones can heighten your risk factors.
What we know is that people that are socially connected and have large groups of friends generally have a better mental health and sense of belonging and inclusion. As a part of a healthy lifestyle it is important that we engage and meet with friends and family as we can talk through whatever issues may be affecting us.
Going out to eat a healthy breakfast and meet with friends or family is another way to break down the social isolation that may be a risk factor for heart disease.
Question: How does regularly skipping breakfast push you closer to heart disease?
Julie-Anne Mitchell: We encourage people to not skip breakfast because eating breakfast stops you from over eating at other meal times and most importantly it stabilises your blood sugars throughout the day so you are not getting a major cool down on your energy levels at lunchtime – it is spread across the day. We have known for a long time that eating breakfast is good for weight management but the new study was the first to look at risk factors in adults and children to see if there was a difference between those who ate breakfast regularly and those that didn't. What this research showed was those that don't eat breakfast had an average waist measurement of 5cm bigger, had high blood sugar levels and higher cholesterol levels which are both risk factors for heart disease, than those that did eat breakfast.
The tip to reducing the risk of heart disease is to consider that small, everyday changes that can make a big difference. What also is important is what you eat is as important as when you eat.
Question: What are some heart healthy breakfast choices?
Julie-Anne Mitchell: Breakfast offers one of the greatest ranges for healthy options for eating. The options are going for a skinny flat white in tea or coffee and having poached eggs instead of scrambled eggs. It's about making healthier choices that are still tasty. Even add tomatoes or avocado to your breakfast! We're not saying don't eat those things but we are saying swap to a healthier option.
Question: Why does the program focus mainly on woman when heart disease kills both men and women?
Julie-Anne Mitchell: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and woman but what we know is woman are not paying attention to heart health messages in the same way that men are. Most woman fear breast cancer and in fact, four times as many women will die of heart disease as they will of breast cancer. The important message is that women need to be as vigilant with our heart health as they are with their breast health; it's not a competition.
If people really look at their lifestyle; the fact is that we are all living more sedentary lifestyles with a lot of time sitting in the car, sitting in front of computers or sitting in front of the TV; we are also eating a lot more high fat, high salt diets. When we are young it can seem like it doesn't make a difference but over a lifetime it really can make a difference to your health, long term. In some instances you can say that investment in a highly lifestyle now is a bit like superannuation – invest in it now and you will reap the rewards later in life.
Our message around woman and heart disease is really to raise women's awareness. We know that currently 20-30% of women are aware that heart disease is an important issue; we want to raise that awareness and explain that there are simple, everyday things that you can do to lower your risk. The everyday things not only benefit the heart but a whole range of other chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and a range of conditions that may seem a long way away, but it is surprising how quickly they can come up.
Interview by Brooke Hunter and Morgan Sutherland