Almond Living Magazine Step to the right beat: why Millennial men need to be heart-smart We’ve teamed up with Love Island alumni and A&E Doctor, Dr Alex George to highlight some risk factors related to heart conditions and the best place to start to make potentially life changing differences. 20/5/2021 The heart is synonymous with love and romance, with heartache and heartbreak a concern for many and something to avoid at all costs. But has seeing our heart as a romantic entity meant we are forgetting its role as our most vital organ? With Millennials, in particular men, this seems to be the case, with 61% believing they need to protect themselves against romantic heartbreak, according to our recent survey.1 While this stat is high, it’s not wholly unsurprising; as the pioneers of the Tinder generation, the opportunities for finding romance and then avoiding heartbreak when found, are never ending. This preoccupation with romance and its perils has a downside, with only 23% of this demographic being concerned about heart-related illness, and a quarter of those claiming it’s because they’re ‘too young'.2 The ‘live in the moment’ Millennial mantra seems to also apply to heart health, with some admitting to living the way they want, rather than worrying about for how long.3 Yet for men, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in England and Wales.4 Although you are more likely to suffer from a heart condition over the age of 55, as many as 12 people under the age of 35 die every week in the UK as a result of an undiagnosed heart condition.5 One solution is seeing prevention as better than cure, and as a demographic that often puts hell-raising before health, Men’s Health Month this June is the perfect time to raise awareness around how small changes can have a big impact on men’s health. We’ve teamed up with Love Island alumni and A&E Doctor, Dr Alex George to highlight some risk factors related to heart conditions and the best place to start to make potentially life changing differences. “I know only too well how easy it is for men my age to be preoccupied by matters of the heart, whether it’s looking for love or protecting yourself from heartbreak once you’ve found it. But as heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for men, it’s important to start thinking about our heart health now as the habits and behaviours we establish in our 20s and 30s can have a big impact on our long term health,” says Dr Alex. How does diet play a role? He continues: “Some of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease are diet related – including having high cholesterol and obesity – but it’s an area that us Millennial men often don’t think about, with three quarters of us unaware that a poor diet can make us vulnerable to heart failure.1” “The good news is, you don’t need to drastically change your diet to take a step in the right direction and it’s the easiest place to start. Trying to be more conscious of what you’re eating and making a few small changes can go a long way to reducing your risk of problems in later life. For example, if your diet is made up primarily of saturated fat, trans-fats and salt, you could be significantly increasing your risk of heart disease later in life. Instead, try to incorporate some more unprocessed foods that contain healthy fats including grains, oily fish and nuts like almonds.” Almonds are an easy heart-smart choice to add into your diet. They’re good for your health with fibre (12.5 / 4.0 g per 100g / 30g serving) and 15 essential nutrients (per 100g / 30g serving) including magnesium (270 / 81 mg), potassium (733 / 220 mg) and vitamin E (25.6 / 7.7 mg). Almonds also contain the fatty acid, linoleic acid, which contributes to the maintenance of normal cholesterol levels.1 Healthy blood cholesterol levels are important for heart health. Why are cholesterol levels important? “Learning what’s in our food and the impact it can have is crucial as there’s a lot of myths and misunderstandings out there, particularly with men who wrongly associate some foods with being ‘strong’ and ‘important for muscle’, which if you have too much of, can lead to bigger health problems. For example, 30% of men in this age group associate red meat and cheese with being good for heart health1, but the reality is that both contain high levels of saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can cause an increase in bad LDL cholesterol which can build up to narrow your arteries and put your heart under increased strain,” says Dr Alex. He adds: “Whilst high cholesterol isn’t usually associated with young men, research has found that the effects of high cholesterol and high blood pressure in young adulthood can increase the risk of a heart-related illness in later life2, so it’s important to be aware of which foods can increase your risk and adjust your diet accordingly.” “These don’t need to be huge changes either, try switching out a couple of foods or snacks that are high in saturated fat for alternatives that are tasty and versatile. Almonds are a great example as they are easy to add into so many different meals and they taste great on their own, plus there’s lots of scientific research to support the role they can play in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.” A meta-analysis found that eating almonds results in significant reductions in the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while having no significant impact on ‘good’ HDL cholesterol3. Recent research has also found that snacking on almonds may not only reduce LDL cholesterol levels but may also improve vascular health more generally too.4 “Diet isn’t the only thing that can impact your cholesterol levels, with other lifestyle factors like alcohol, smoking and also how active you are playing a role too. It’s important to be aware of these as well, particularly if you are at an increased risk of heart disease. In addition to tweaking your diet, try to make a couple of small changes here too, even if it’s just cutting out that mid-week drink or getting out for a walk at lunch time.” Almonds & Heart Health There is a wealth of research, spanning over two decades, showing that almonds can help maintain a healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels. Almonds are part of heart-smart eating plans including the Mediterranean Diet and DASH. Almonds contain the fatty acid linoleic acid1 which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Healthy blood cholesterol levels are important for heart health. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that eating almonds results in significant reductions in the ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol, while having no significant impact on ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol levels.2 Recent research has also found that almond consumers in the UK have lower waist circumference and lower BMI – both modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular diseases – and have better diet quality compared with people who do not consume almonds.3 1Almond Board of California UK consumer survey, May 2021 2Almond Board of California UK consumer survey, May 2021 3Almond Board of California UK consumer survey, May 2021 4Office for National Statistics, Deaths Registered in England and Wales: 2019, published 1 July 2020 and British Heart Foundation, UK Factsheet, March 2021, p6 5British Heart Foundation, UK Factsheet, March 2021, p12. 6Almond Board of California UK consumer survey, May 2021. 7The beneficial effect is achieved with a daily intake of 10 g of linoleic acid. Almonds provide 12 g of linoleic acid per 100 g 8Almond Board of California UK consumer survey, May 2021. 9Yiyi Zhang, Eric Vittinghoff, Mark J. Pletcher, Norrina B. Allen, Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Kristine Yaffe, Pallavi P. Balte, Alvaro Alonso, Anne B. Newman, Diane G. Ives, Jamal S. Rana, Donald Lloyd-Jones, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Holly C. Gooding, Sarah D. de Ferranti, Elizabeth C. Oelsner, and Andrew E. Moran. Associations of Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels During Young Adulthood With Later Cardiovascular Events. Journal of American College of Cardiology (2019). 74:3. https://www.onlinejacc.org/content/74/3/330 10Musa-Veloso K, Paulionis L, Poon T, Lee HL. The effects of almond consumption on fasting blood lipid levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Nutritional Science 2016; 5(e34):1-15. 11Snacking on almonds was found to improve endothelial function by a measure called flow mediated dilation (FMD), which is a key indicator of vascular health. Vita Dikariyanto, Leanne Smith, Lucy Francis, May Robertson, Eslem Kusaslan, Molly O'Callaghan-Latham, Camille Palanche, Maria D'Annibale, Dimitra Christodoulou, Nicolas Basty, Brandon Whitcher, Haris Shuaib, Geoffrey Charles-Edwards, Philip J Chowienczyk, Peter R Ellis, Sarah E E Berry, Wendy L Hall, Snacking on whole almonds for 6 weeks improves endothelial function and lowers LDL cholesterol but does not affect liver fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors in healthy adults: the ATTIS study, a randomized controlled trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqaa100, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa100 12The beneficial effect is achieved with a daily intake of 10 g of linoleic acid. Almonds provide 12 g of linoleic acid per 100 g 13Musa-Veloso K, Paulionis L, Poon T, Lee HL. The effects of almond consumption on fasting blood lipid levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Nutritional Science 2016; 5(e34):1-15. 14Dikariyanto, V., Berry, S.E., Francis, L. et al. Whole almond consumption is associated with better diet quality and cardiovascular disease risk factors in the UK adult population: National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) 2008–2017. Eur J Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02270-9.