Fifty-five women a week die from heart disease in this country. That's more than from any other cause - five times more than from breast cancer, which based on media coverage, we might expect to be at the top of that list.

The sad thing is unlike breast cancer deaths, deaths from heart disease are highly preventable.

We can't control our gender, our ethnicity, or our age, but we can control many other factors that contribute to our risk of heart disease. We can stop smoking, watch our alcohol intake, watch our weight and move our bodies.

We can also do much to keep our hearts healthy by choosing what and how we eat.


The basic advice is what we all know: eat lots of fruit and vegetables and cut down on salt and saturated fat.

Traditionally, healthy eating advice has also included limiting sugary foods and drinks. That's because of sugar's contribution to weight gain, which is linked to higher risk of heart disease.

In recent years, though, the evidence has been growing of an independent link between sugar consumption and other risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes.

A couple of large published studies have found links between sugar consumption and death from cardiovascular disease.

In one 2014 study, people who got more than a quarter of their calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those consuming less than a quarter of their total energy intake from added sugar.

Heart health bodies globally have cautiously echoed this. Their advice is in line with the World Health Organisation's recommendation, which is that we should get no more than 10 per cent of our daily energy from free sugars - those added by the cook, in processing or in syrups, honeys and fruit juices.

That equates to just over 5tsp of free sugars a day for most of us. It doesn't include sugars in fruit, dairy or grains, which is intrinsic to those foods and which we don't need to worry too much about.

Speaking of worry, another interesting risk factor for heart disease is stress.

Researchers are not sure exactly how stress increases our risk of heart disease. It could simply be that high levels of stress affect other risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Or it could be that stress itself is a risk factor. That could be because chronic stress exposes our bodies to constantly elevated levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increases our blood sugar and blood pressure.

The Heart Foundation says some stress and worry is normal, but if we're feeling stressed or anxious for longer than three months it can seriously affect our health and we should seek ways to address it.

Exercise can really help here - relaxing mind and body and over time improving the overall health of our hearts.