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Ahem! As an unofficial ambassador (as in VERY unofficial) for the Australian Heart Foundation, I have been reliably informed that some of you still find eating healthily (I quote) ‘boring’ and are naively putting your lives at risk.

heart-foundation-logo-shortTo be honest, I used to think that I was too young and awesome to worry about eating healthily too, and I certainly didn’t worry about a minor thing like my own mortality. That is, until I was given a very valid reason for changing my lifestyle.

Living.

Heart disease became a personal and very real issue for me when my family discovered that we had inherited a condition called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia on my mother’s side, that led to a heinous trail of human destruction in our family.

The effects of heart disease can be devastating. Take it from someone who knows.

Hyperchol….what, I hear you ask?

Don’t worry, even I am a little sketchy on the science behind it. But what I do know about Hypercholesterolaemia is that it is a f*cking scary condition, which if left undiagnosed and untreated, can be a killer. It is one of the reasons some people have seriously high levels of the really bad cholesterol (LDLs) in their blood, which can lead to furring of the arteries, blood clots and premature heart attack.

Fortunately these days the condition is not a death sentence and there are treatments available. These may start with lifestyle changes such as a low cholesterol diet and exercise, or medication such as Statins may be prescribed.

But thirty years ago, very little was known about Hypercholesterolaemia and heart disease, which is why heart disease became particularly personal to me when it killed my mother, her brother and her sister before they reached the age of forty.

Heart disease is that kind of f*cking serious.

You might think that an unthinkable event such as the premature loss of a parent when you’re a teenager might actually stop you from stuffing your face with as many cream cakes as you can fit in your gob and smoking your lungs out. Unfortunately not. You see, I was young, hedonistic, had a real reason to be f*cked off with the world, and I was convinced I was going to die young anyway…..

As you know, I am still here.

My seminal moment regarding the state of my health, (and the realisation that I am not unfortunately a Cullen), kicked in the day that my first child was born, when I realised that I really wanted to see her grow up.

I realised that I wanted to live as long as I could.

By that time I had the diet side of things pretty much under control. I was eating healthily. Some of the wisdom of the army of specialists I saw must have infiltrated my conscience somewhere, because I can’t remember ever not drinking skimmed milk or not eating margarine instead of butter and I had always passed on cream and fatty meat.

But admittedly it took me longer to cut out the cigarettes – something I truly regret now when I look at my children. I can’t imagine that any of you are smokers anyway – filthy habit that it is – and just SO eighties!

Luckily, I’ve found out that it’s never too late to change your lifestyle. And the research that the Heart Foundation has carried out, backs this up.

A lot of you probably still eat too much ‘unhealthy’ food without realizing it, like I did. Which is why, when the Heart Foundation approached me to write this post about heart disease, I was super keen.

They’re clever, those people at the Heart Foundation. They invited me to share an evening with them to discuss heart disease and how they can best educate women to eat healthily. They obviously had no idea who they were dealing with when they invited me. I mean, how could they have possibly known that I would have at my disposal this perfect, god-awful, shocking family-history story to preach to you about, which was bound to appeal to your morbid fascination if nothing else?

To be honest, I would have written the piece without the informative cooking lesson and naughty glass of wine they plied me with to accompany it.

But here is the important stuff that your need to know –  the six fundamental ways you can prevent heart disease and live longer:

  • Give Up Smoking – smoking is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  • Eat Healthily – Choose plant-based foods, wholegrain cereal foods, moderate amounts of lean unprocessed meat, oily fish and foods with low or reduced salt content
  • Be Physically Active – the Heart Foundation recommends that you try to include at least 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical exercise, ideally each day of the week. A brisk walk with the dog does count.
  • Manage Your Blood Pressure – Have regular blood pressure checks. Did you know that every adult in Australia is entitled to a free medical at the age of 45 where your cholesterol and blood pressure will be checked?
  • Maintain A Healthy Body Weight – if you eat healthily and enjoy healthy eating, this won’t be a problem.
  • Maintain Your Psychological And Social Health – people who are more prone to depression, or are socially isolated or do not have quality social support are at greater risk of developing heart disease. Depression can be treated, so if you think you are at risk, speak to your health professional and seek help.

Heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women. It kills more than three times as many women as breast cancer and eating healthily is one of the ways you can prevent yourself from becoming another statistic.

But in case I was still sceptical, (as if, after a glass of wine!), the Heart Foundation also educated me in how to make some deliciously easy, healthy recipes too.

Did you know that fine slices of lean beef with a rich pesto and olive tapenade, crisp Vietnamese spring rolls with herbs and vegetables, succulent stuffed chicken breasts with spinach, mozzarella and roasted peppers and an orgasmic red wine fruit jelly are all recipes that were easy enough for EVEN me to create; and they’re healthy too?

So to encourage you to start eating healthily from today, here is my FREE (yes, I did say FREE) giveaway of three fabulously heart-healthy recipes shown to me by the Heart Foundation with my own stunningly professional photography thrown in.

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls 

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls from the Heart Foundation

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls from the Heart Foundation

Rice paper wrappers

Cooked vermicelli noodles

Mint and coriander leaves

Iceberg lettuce

Sliced carrot

Sliced cucumber

Snow pea sprouts

Heat some water in a pan. Dip one wrapper into the water for a second to soften. Lay the wrapper on the bench and start filling with your selected ingredients. Place the filling in the centre, leaving about 5cm of the wrapper uncovered on each side. Fold in the uncovered sides of the wrapper and tightly roll to enclose the filling.

Rolled Chicken Breast

Rolled Chicken Breast from the Heart Foundation

Rolled Chicken Breast from the Heart Foundation

1 Chicken breast per person

Choice of fillings –

Asparagus

Baby spinach

Roast capsicum

Roast pumpkin

Roast eggplant

Caramelised onion

Reduced fat ricotta.

Slice a long slice through the side of each chicken breast, not all the way through. Open the breast out and if need be slice a further pocket to allow for even rolling. Place filling down the middle of the breast.  Lay a piece of foil on the bench followed by a piece of glad wrap over the top. Sprinkle some mixed spices (smoked paprika, basil and pepper) and the grated peel of a lime onto the glad wrap. Place breast with filling onto the spices to coat outside, then roll chicken breast up tightly, securing both ends of glad wrap tightly. Do the same with the foil, securing both ends tightly and cook in a pot of water, just under simmering point for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from water and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove chicken from foil and serve.

Red Wine Fruit Jelly

800ml Red Wine

Red Wine Fruit Jelly from the Heart Foundation

Red Wine Fruit Jelly from the Heart Foundation

3 Star Anise

1 Vanilla pod

1 Cinnamon stick

3 Cloves

100ml Honey

Pulp of 4 Passionfruit

1 Mango cubed

1 Punnet strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

3 Sheets of gelatin

Small individual jelly moulds or decorative glasses of your choice.

Soak gelatine in cold water until it is soft, squeeze off any excess liquid. Bring red wine, star anise, vanilla pod, cinnamon, honey and passionfruit to the boil in a small saucepan. Once boiled, strain. All mixture to sit for 1 hour. Then return liquid to the pot and bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Add gelatine to the pot and whisk into the mixture. Add mixed fruit to your moulds. Pour jelly liquid over the fruit. Place in the fridge to set.

I know that after reading this post you’re all going to change your lifestyle immediately and start eating healthily and exercising like Olympians, but just in case any of you think you might be having a heart attack BEFORE you get the chance to buy your new runners, and are too embarrassed that your symptoms might be a false alarm, it is my duty as an (unofficial) ambassador of the Heart Foundation to give you some tips about the warning signs of a heart attack. (And did I mention that this information is FREE too? Because we’re like that at the Heart Foundation).

Heart attack warning signs may include the following: pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in one or more parts of the upper body (chest, neck, jaw, arm(s), shoulder(s) or back) in combination with other symptoms of nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness or a cold sweat. For more information, visit http://www.heartattackfacts.org.au.

My work here is done. Happy healthy eating and let me know how you go.

Personal Stories

The Heart Foundation

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Heart Foundation organised by Brand Meets Blog. I was not paid to write this post; I wanted to write it.

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