WANT to shed a little body fat and reduce your risk of an early death?
Well, you might find that eating for a healthier heart might help.
At least, that's the finding of a new study that says that we can dramatically extend our live spans and dress size by making three small heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Scientists have been studying data from around the world and concluded that high blood pressure is causing millions of people to die before their time.
To it down, all you have to do is cut out trans fats from your diet, reduce your sodium intake and take high blood pressure medication.
And interestingly, the medication has as much impact as reducing fat intake.
Reduce salt and trans fats
Millions are dying before their time from cardiovascular disease.
We revealed last week that one in seven cardiovascular (CVD) deaths are down to a lack of fruit, while one in 12 is caused by not eating enough vegetables.
But this new study, published in the journal Circulation, has found that the majority of CVD deaths are down to high blood pressure.
By increasing the treatment of high blood pressure to 70 per cent of the world's population, nearly 40 million people could live longer.
Slashing sodium intake by 30 per cent could save another 40 million and eliminating trans fats could prevent 14.8 million early deaths.
Men could benefit hugely
Men are most likely to benefit from making these changes, because they die more often from non-infectious diseases.
Researchers said that getting enough people to do all three things would be a "huge challenge" – and would require countries to commit more money to boost health care quality.
How to cut trans fats and sodium
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It's also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats can be found in small amounts in dairy and meats.
They're also produced when ordinary vegetable oils are heated up to fry foods at really hot temperatures, which is why takeaways can be high in them.
Foods that are made from hardened veg oils like biscuits, pies and cakes also contain them.
So your best bet is to reduce your intake of dairy, meat and manufactured things like cakes and biccies.
We get most of our sodium from salt, so that's really what we need to reduce.
According to the NHS, adults shouldn't eat more than 6g of salt a day – which is around one teaspoon.
The maximum that kids should have depends on their age.
At 6-years-old, they shouldn't be having more than 3g a day.
A packet of crisps contains 0.5g of salt – the same as a slice of white bread.
A teaspoon of soy sauce, however, has 2.9g sodium, which is more than a Big Mac.
Avoid adding extra salt to your food and try to go for low-sodium options where you can.
In Northern California, a similar programme has made a massive difference, with 90 per cent of hypertension cases now being under control.
"These are realistic goals that have been shown to be attainable on smaller scales," said the study's lead author and professor of global health at Harvard Chan School, Goodarz Danaei.
"We need the commitment to scale up the programs to achieve them globally."
Instead of eating salty, processed foods, you'd be much better off trying to follow a more Mediterranean-style diet.
Eat like the Italians
The Mediterranean die is amazing for heart health – as well as for sustainable fat burning and lean muscle gain.
According to scientists at Sheffield Hallam Uni, "at least in the short-term, the Mediterranean diet improves significantly the availability of nitric oxide in our veins and arteries – which is important to maintain the good health of our vascular system".
Writing in The Conversation, the study's author, Markos Klonizakis, said: "So as far as reducing cardiovascular disease risk, our work suggests that it is probably better to look for a solution in the Mediterranean diet".
The olive oil-rich diet is so good for us that it's been named the best diet for the second year in a row.
It's low in refined sugar, red meat and processed foods which is why it's been linked to lowering risks of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure.
It also may improve kidney function and gut health.
The NHS explains: “The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.
“But in general, it's high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
“It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.”
It tends to replace butter with oil, while flavouring comes from herbs and spices rather than salt.
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