February is Heart Month, with the British Heart Foundation encouraging us all to think about what we can do to look after our tickers. An important part of this is keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level – and the great news is, even small changes can give your heart health a real boost.

Your blood pressure is the amount of force your heart uses to pump blood around your body. If it’s too high, this puts more strain on your arteries and heart muscles, which increases your risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, strokes and kidney failure. Having high blood pressure doesn’t in itself cause any symptoms, so the only way to keep on top of yours is to have it checked regularly by your local GP or practice nurse.

Blood pressure can increase as we age, so it’s never too early to think about what you can do to look after yours. The following tips will help you stay healthy and maintain a normal blood pressure – or help lower it. Remember, it’s always best to check with a doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Cut down on ‘bad fats’ in your diet

Small amounts of fat are part of a healthy, balanced diet, because the body needs fatty acids to help it absorb important vitamins such as A, D and E. Fat comes in a number of different types, but all of them are very high in energy compared to carbohydrates and protein, so it’s easy to become overweight by eating too much.

The type of fat that most of us really need to cut down on is saturated fat, which is found in foods including:

  • fatty cuts of meat
  • meat products like sausages and pies
  • butter, lard and ghee
  • cheese, cream and ice cream
  • biscuits, cakes, pastries, crisps, confectionery

Saturated fat increases the amount of bad cholesterol in our arteries, which can restrict blood flow. This carries the risk of increasing the level of triglycerides, a fatty substance made by our liver that can cause arteries to narrow – which can contribute to high blood pressure.

Government guidelines recommend that men should eat no more than 30g and women no more than 20g of saturated fat each day. So it’s always important to check the nutritional guidelines on any food or ready meals you buy, which show how much of the total fat content in the product is saturated fat.

To make nutritional management easier, at Oakhouse we have a whole range of heart healthy ready meals that contain less than 3% fat per serving, from Minced Beef and Mash to Chicken Casserole and heartwarming Roast Lamb. Just look out for the heart symbol as you read through your brochure (see our dietary symbols below), or select the ‘Low Fat’ category as you browse our website. We’ve also got a handy downloadable list of dishes Low in Saturated Fat, making it even easier to avoid the bad fats.

Go easy on the salt

Most of us have heard that eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure, so it’s important to know what goes into our food. We should eat no more than 6g per day, and this can soon add up.

To cut down on salt, don’t add any when you’re cooking, don’t put it as a condiment on the table, and check food labels so you know how much is already in what you buy. Many supermarkets use a simple ‘traffic light’ system, with red indicating high, amber medium and green low levels of salt. And remember, many products that you might not expect to contain added salt – such as bread and breakfast cereal – often do, so always read packaging carefully.

Keeping track of food labelling can be tricky, so it’s good to know that at Oakhouse, we make it simple. Look out for the Low Salt symbol as you choose your dishes, to find ready meals, sides and desserts with just 0.3g of salt per 100g or less.

Watch your weight

As many of us are eating more than we need, all the extra energy we don’t use gets stored by our bodies as fat. Being overweight can increase your blood pressure and put you at risk of developing health conditions such as diabetes, which can then lead to heart disease.

Health professionals recommend that daily calorie intake should be no more than 2,500 for the average man, and 2,000 for the average woman. But it can be difficult to know just how many calories your food contains, particularly when cooking for yourself. That’s why at Oakhouse, we’ve provided a full nutritional breakdown for every dish in our range including calorie content. If you’re trying to lose weight, we can also offer a range of low calorie dishes that are big on flavour, including tasty Beef & Vegetable Hotpot and Chicken Stir Fry, as well as a choice of desserts that contain under 200 calories, such as fruity Strawberry Trifle and Rice Pudding.

If you’d like any help finding the ready meals that are right for you, give us a call on 0333 370 6700. Our friendly team will be happy to answer any questions.