How to live longer: The superfood seed that may reduce heart disease and cancer risk

Coronavirus has consumed the world’s attention but its devastating impact is eclipsed by coronary heart disease and cancer. According to the British Heart Foundation, every eight minutes someone in the UK dies from coronary heart disease. Cancer statistics are even more chilling – every four minutes someone in the UK dies from cancer, reports Cancer Research UK. These threats can weigh heavy on the mind but research suggests you can reduce your risk of developing them.

Diet is an area that has shown particular promise, with certain components packing chronic disease-fighting properties.

Eating flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, may offer some protection against the big killers.

Lignans (plant compounds), as well as the fibre and omega-3 fats in flaxseeds, can all help reduce LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease, research suggests.

LDL cholesterol is a fatty substance that clings to the inside of your artery walls, thereby raising your risk of heart disease.

One large study combined the results of 28 others, finding that consuming flaxseeds reduced levels of LDL cholesterol by an average of 10 mmol/l.

What’s more, flaxseeds may also help reduce blood pressure – another precursor to heart disease.

An analysis of 11 studies found that flaxseeds could reduce blood pressure especially when eaten whole every day for more than 12 weeks .

Anti-cancer properties

A couple of studies have shown that eating flaxseeds may reduce markers of tumour growth in women with breast cancer, and may also reduce cancer risk.

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This may be due to the lignans in flaxseeds.

Lignans are phytoestrogens (plant compounds) and are similar to the female sex hormone oestrogen.

What’s more, similar benefits have been shown regarding prostate cancer in men.

In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, flaxseeds may also help reduce blood sugar, which may help lower the risk of diabetes, research suggests.

General dietary tips

According to the NHS, fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals and fibre, and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.

“It’s recommended that you eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day,” advises the health body.

They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced, it adds.

Why five portions?

There’s evidence that people who eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

There is a mountain of evidence that shows regular exercise is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

“Not only does regular exercise help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of developing diseases, it can help prevent and treat mental health problems,” says Bupa.

As the health body points out, it can boost your wellbeing and mood, and is a great way to unwind from the stresses of life.

Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, it adds.

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