How to keep your heart healthy

Dr Vernon Coleman

Learning to relax, taking gentle, regular exercise and eating a low fat vegetarian diet can help reverse existing heart disease.

And the same sort of regime will almost certainly help prevent heart disease.

I know it isn’t fashionable or exciting to offer simple advice but I’m more interested in offering accurate, honest, effective advice than in offering you an exciting sounding remedy that no one has ever heard of and which you can only buy after visiting dozens of stores. My aim is to help you live a long and healthy life – not to impress you by advising you to take a handful of rare Guatemalan beans and a couple of highly coloured and untested chemical cocktail pills every day!

The key about my simple advice for a healthy heart, is it seems to me, that all this advice must be followed enthusiastically and regularly. Going for a walk once a fortnight, eating slightly less butter and making a half- hearted attempt to relax when you can feel your muscles knotting up is not going to make any noticeable difference at all.

In my view, assuming that you are in good health and there are no medical reasons why you should not do any of these things you should, if you want to make a difference, do several things in order to maintain good cardiac condition.

First, you should go for a brisk walk three times a week for at least half an hour at a time. Don’t be put off just because it’s windy or because you are busy.

Second, you should make a serious attempt to cut down your consumption of fatty foods. Here, for example, are some quick ways to reduce the fat in your diet:

1. Become vegetarian or vegan. Most meat is rich in fat. Fatty beef and pork are really bad for you but even chicken contains far too much fat for a low fat diet.

2. Grill, steam, casserole, bake or boil but don’t fry or roast food. (Stir frying can be OK.)

3. Avoid butter, cream, margarine and full cream milk. Choose soya milk instead of dairy milk. Add herbs instead of butter (or salt) when cooking vegetables. Select low fat non-dairy spreads which contain polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated fats.

4. If you buy prepared or convenience foods make sure that you look for low fat labels. Check food constituents and remember that you are aiming at a diet which contains less than 20% fat. (The recommended figure is 10%). Try to put products back onto the shelf if the label tells you that they contain more than 20% fat. (In my view recommended ‘acceptable’ levels, which are sometimes 30%, are far too high.)

You should make a real effort to reduce your exposure to unnecessary stress. The simple way to do this is to make a list of all the activities and commitments in your life which contribute to your general stress levels and to then ask yourself which of those activities and commitments add value to your life and which can be avoided or discarded.

And finally, you should learn how to relax your mind and your body and you should practise what you learn on a regular basis. (There is advice about mental and physical relaxation in my books ‘Bodypower’ and ‘Mindpower’).

Taken from `How to stop your doctor killing you’ by Vernon Coleman – which is available via the bookshops on

Copyright Vernon Coleman October 2023